facebook instagram pinterest search twitter youtube whatsapp linkedin thumbup

Is It Time To Stop? Here’s How To Recognize Under-Recovery

Under-recovery among athletes and exercisers is more common than you’d think. Like many other athletes, I know that recovery from exercise is crucial and yet, I didn’t stop until I had no other choice. 

When I finally did stop, it wasn’t really even my choice anymore – my body made that decision for me and said: Stop! Now!

I was in the middle of a hard, but exciting, training season with a lot of volume and high intensity. That training season ended up being short-lived as I was working out too hard, too often. I ended up in a state of under-recovery, which meant that an easy mobility routine (in the picture below) was one of the most intense sessions I was able to do for days.

View this post on Instagram

PALAUTUMINEN. Tai alipalautuminen… Kuvan asento on ollu meikäläisen rajuimpia aktiviteettejä viimepäivinä, kun kroppa päätti että nyt pikku stoppi. Oman päänhän olis pitänyt sanoa se jo ennen, kun oli "pakko" ottaa stoppi, mutta moni urheilija sen tietää, miten pirun vaikeeta on himmata just sillon kun treenikalenteri näyttää että nyt reenataaan ja kovaa, koska nyt on yks vuoden tärkeimpiä harjoittelukausia. – Mä herään yleensä aamusin virkeänä ja aamupalaa nauttiessani ootan innolla, että pääsen vetää aamun treenin ja samalla jo tutkailen treeniohjelmasta mitä illan treeni pitää sisällään ja asetan jo tavoitteita illan treeniin. Oon motivoitunut ja treenit on useesti ihan mun päivän kohokohtia. – Viimeaikoina oltiin kuitenkin tultu tilanteeseen, jossa mä olin aamuisin ihan todella väsynyt, en ollut nukkunut hyvin ja mun Polar Igniten viisaritkin oli kääntyny tasaseen laskuun niin, et lopulta oltiin pelkällä punasella useampi päivä putkeen. Istuin aamusin sohvalla kahvikuppi kädessä kauhusta kankeena siitä, miten selviytyisin tän päivän treeneistä ja töistä ja odotin jo seuraavaa lepopäivää, joka oli just vasta eilen ollut. "Enää neljä harjoitusta, ja sit tulee lepo, kyllä mä selviin" mä ajattelin. "Vielä muutama viikko, ja sit keventyy hetkeksi"…. Toisinaan koin viisaaksi jättää aamutreenin väliin, jotta illalla suoriutuisin edes hiukan paremmin, mikä oli varmasti ihan fiksua. Jälkikäteen ajatellen täysi lepopäiväkään ei olis ollut pahitteeksi. – Olin niin väsynyt, et nukuin kerran kahdet päikkärit samana päivänä. Treenit kulki kuitenkin jopa ihan ok, välillä jopa todella hyvin, mut en ollu yhtä innostunu niistä ku ennen, päinvastoin- kaikki oli vähän semmosta semipaskaa. Treeneistä seuraavana yönä pyörittiin taas sängyssä useempia tunteja valveilla ja seuraavana aamuna vedettiin jälleen yksi kuppi kahvia enemmän, et jakso lähtee töihin tai treeneihin. Kunnes onneks sitten tajusin, et nyt STOP. Viikon verran nyt hölläilleenä treeneistä alkaa mittarit olla palanneet takas normaaleihin lukemiin ja on useempia kunnolla nukuttuja öitäkin taas takana. Kohta siispä FIKSUSTI takas hommiin ✌🏼Lesson learned: data ei valehtele… #bloodsweatanddata

A post shared by Nelli Nurmi |Athlete/Urheilija (@nonellivaa) on

Now I know that I should have stopped before it came to that. But, as many athletes know, it’s just so difficult to slow down when your workout plan tells you to turn up the intensity during the most important training season of the year.

Well, I learned my lesson: When your body and recovery data tell you to stop, you better listen.

I learned it the hard way but you don’t have to. To help you avoid ending up where I was, here are some of the warning signs of under-recovery which I should have taken seriously.

Morning anxiety

I usually wake up in the morning refreshed, already looking forward to my morning workout. While having breakfast, eager to get my sweat on, I also set goals for my evening workout. I would say I’m pretty motivated and training is often the highlight of my day.

Recently, however, I found myself feeling tired almost every morning. I wasn’t sleeping well at night and the Nightly Recharge status on my Polar Ignite stubbornly stayed in the red zone for several days in a row. 

In the mornings, I would sit on the couch with a cup of coffee in my hand with a strange feeling of horror as I was thinking about how to get through the day and my workouts. More often than not, I was hoping I could take a rest day, (even when my previous rest day was yesterday). 

At times, I did skip my morning workout to save some energy for the evening, which was definitely a smart move. In retrospect, a full day of rest wouldn’t have hurt at that point. 

I thought maybe I just needed to push myself harder so I said to myself:

Just four more workouts and then you can rest. You can do this! 

“Only a few more weeks and you’ll get a break!”

Nothing feels like anything

I was so tired that I had to take two naps a day. Despite the exhaustion, my workouts were going okay, sometimes extremely well, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic about them as before. Quite the opposite – everything felt, well, blah. 

After training, I spent the next night tossing and turning in bed for hours on end and the next morning pouring down coffee as my life depended on it, just to get myself going and make it through the day. 

This went on for a while, until I (luckily) realized: I need to stop. Now. 

Stop! But then what?

So, I stopped and made a plan to prioritize sleep and bring my stress levels down, both mentally and physically. 

This time I decided to let data lead the way and I made a pact with myself that I would need a “good” “very good” or “excellent” Nightly Recharge score on my Polar Ignite for three days in a row before I’d get back to training. 

Overall, it took me over a week to get my metrics back to even close where they had normally been and almost two weeks to get back to training. The time required to bounce back could’ve been as much as two months or years, so I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. 

Now I’m training smarter, focusing on recovery more than before, and I listen to the signals my body is giving me and actually use the data my fitness watch offers.

Key lesson learned: It’s easy to fool yourself, but data doesn’t lie. 

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share so that others can find it, too.

Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Next up

FAQ: Fitness Data

Tracking fitness data is useless – if you don’t actually use it. If you’re one of the fitness enthusiasts who track everything, but don’t know why or what to do with your fitness data, take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions (answered) about fitness data.

Read FAQ

Don't want to miss a thing? Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know.