Contributed by: Dustin Gonzalez, NASM-CPT
We eat, sleep, train, repeat—constantly striving to get bigger, stronger, faster or slimmer—but is there a point where too much becomes harmful? Many recognize the need for recovery after exercise, but do we understand what it takes to fully recover and whether we have actually achieved that state?
We often hear terms like over-training and non-functional overreaching (the threshold just prior to over-training) and wonder “What exactly does that mean and do I fall into that category?”. Answering these questions starts with a basic understanding of homeostasis, stress and recovery within the body. Let’s take a look at each of these:
Homeostasis is a state of balance within the body that occurs when the variables in a system (e.g., pH, temperature) are regulated to keep internal conditions stable and relatively constant.
Stress is a stimulus that overcomes (or threatens to overcome) the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. Stress related to exercise, which includes physiological (i.e. muscle tears, dehydration, pain) and chemical (i.e. blood imbalances of acid-base or oxygen-carbon dioxide). Other common types of stress are environmental (i.e. temperature and humidity), psychological (i.e. finances), emotional (i.e. fear and anxiety) and social (i.e. interpersonal conflicts).
Recovery is the body’s process for restoring homeostasis. The human body is designed to tackle stress—we either adapt or perish (hence the concept of “survival of the fittest”). An intense, acute bout of physiological stress followed by adequate recovery, which enables adaptation and restores homeostasis, is generally considered healthy. However, physiological stress that is not followed by adequate recovery can, over time, compromise homeostasis and immune function which can increase the probability of injury, and illness.
Consider these implications when you outline your next exercise program. Pay close attention to your level of stress and amount of recovery.