Less is more: Balancing strain and recovery

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Less is more: Balancing strain and recovery

We all know exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can help us achieve our ideal weight, make us stronger, more energetic, and help improve our sleep… The list of benefits of exercise goes on and on. The COVID-19 pandemic caused lots of people not to exercise enough. But did you know it is also possible to exercise too much?

Yes, that’s right. Now, I’m not saying you should quit your gym membership right away – far from that. What most people don’t know, is that the key component of performance is in fact recovery. And most people don’t give themselves enough time to fully recover. They remain in their DO-mode when they should allow themselves to just BE. To read a book, meditate, sleep, or go for a walk outside. In the best-case scenario insufficient recovery leads to exhaustion and our workouts being less effective. Worst case, our recovery deficiency can lead to injury and burn-out.

So how can we avoid injury, burn-out and make our exercise more effective? By balancing strain and recovery. Personally, I’m a budget-freak and I love anticipating my upcoming expenses and income. Not having to worry if I’ll have enough money to buy my kids breakfast really frees up my mental bandwidth. And recently, I’ve been a lot more precautious about debt and the amount of interest it accumulates.

I’ve always been a budget freak, even though I didn’t always have much to budget. With some help from my amazing financial coach, I learned to set priorities and take action. I started to spread payments where possible and I finally dared to ask for a long-overdue raise so my income would meet market standards. And now, I can proudly say I am debt-free! So liberating:) Because the debt really weighs on you.

Balancing our physical strain and recovery is not much different from balancing our financial books. And for optimal vitality, you need to prevent energy debt in the first place. Our daily strain budget (exercise and activity) is based on our recovery and overstraining or insufficient recovery leads to an energy-debt, deficiency, injuries or burn-out.

Our individual strain budget depends on several factors and differs per day. Strain budgets also differ per person. Compare it with your bank account, in which exercise (strain) is an expense, costing us money. You can then consider recovery as an income, bringing in extra funds, increasing the budget.

Imagine that, based on your recovery, you start today with $100 strain budget. You run 10k, costing you $100, and with that, you’ve maxed out that day’s strain budget. But you also plan on running 10k tomorrow. With no budget left, tomorrow’s performance will highly depend on that night’s recovery… that’s risky. Because without proper recovery, running the 10k will cause an energy debt. And debt comes at a cost. The cost of interest. Not giving yourself enough time to fully recover, will cost you more in the long run than if you avoid the debt in the first place.

Full strain therefore comes with a risk. After full depletion, there’s only one way to improve performance: full recovery before the next workout! And just to give you an example, to achieve ultimate progression in weightlifting, the optimal time between 2 same workouts is 72 hours (3 days!!) Depending on the intensity of the load, your muscles are at the peak  of what we call super compensation 72 hours after the initial ‘impuls’.

We achieve optimal recovery when we give our DO-muscle a break and activate our BE-muscle. This is often the hardest thing for all you over-achievers out there. Trust me, sitting on the couch enjoying a cup of tea, going outside for a walk, meditating, or even going to bed half an hour earlier than usual is much more effective than pushing yourself to the limit, sometimes even too far. Most things can wait a few days. But your recovery can’t.

Balance and recovery are therefore key to optimal performance. Push yourself hard during exercise but be sure to also take enough time to recover. And find a way that works for you. You’ll see your resilience increase, your progression curve spike up and most importantly; you’ll feel more energetic!

By the way, did you know cold-therapy and plant-based nutrition are also great recovery-boosters? I will discuss those in more detail at a later stage. For now, I hope you realize the importance of BEING instead of constantly DOING. For we are human beings, right? Not human doings 😉

Love, Valerie

Valerie Ketjen

Valerie Ketjen

Passionate about strategic vitality and retention, Miss Vitality helps individuals & organizations boost physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness by sharing knowledge, experience and insights through digital and personal training and coaching. We contribute to a healthy planet carrying happy people.

One Response

  1. Dank Valerie, jouw analyse snijdt zeker hout. Aandachtspunt voor mij is het bepalen van het moment waarop ik moet ‘rusten’ opdat ik geen roofbouw pleeg op mijn lijf. Onder jouw supervisie is dat geen of althans een klein probleem. De kunst natuurlijk is het eigen besef te ontwikkelen.
    Morgen begin ik aan mijn Alternatieve 4Daagse, naar Katwijk en terug. Voel me nu prima en ben benieuwd hoe ik mij morgen rond deze tijd voel. Morgenavond PhD receptie in Breukelen, zal het rustig aan doen(!) want woensdag wordt de tweede etappe gewandeld.
    Ik wens jou veel inspiratie de komende dagen.

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