One of the most difficult things for an athlete using a training plan or self-coaching is to know when to say stop. If you’re weeks into your training plan, and you get started on your workout for the day, what are some signs that you might need to call it off and convert to recovery mode? Here are the three most common signs that you didn’t recover that we see in the athletes we coach.

1. Slow to Warm Up

The comment in TrainingPeaks on a 1-hour run will be something like: “It took me 30 minutes to get warmed up today.” Most healthy athletes can handle one day like this, an anomaly. But two days in a row like this and we recommend skipping the workout and focusing on good sleep, nutrition, and recovery. This point illustrates the importance of a gradual warm-up, whether the workout is a bouldering session or hill-repeat intervals. Not only do you get all the cylinders firing before taxing the system but you have time to assess whether you should proceed with the planned workout, or make an adjustment.

2. Didn’t Sleep Well Last Night

Again, once in a while this happens to most of us for any number of reasons. Remember that a physical inability to fall asleep may indicate that you’re too tired, that your body is overstressed, and that you need more recovery. An overstimulated sympathetic nervous system simply can’t unwind; it’s still in fight-or-flight mode, which is why you can’t fall asleep.

3. “I think I injured something.”

If you think you strained or sprained a muscle, connective tissue, or joint, and it’s locally swollen (even slightly) and sore, then take the time you need to figure it out. As with illness, never train through injury. (Though at times it is possible to train around an injury, as in a rock climber building upper-body strength while rehabbing a sprained ankle.)

Take the long view of your training. Correct training is not an overnight success story. It’s a process of consistent, intelligently directed work that builds the physical and mental capacities that help you be better at your sport. Think in terms of months and years (and even decades) instead of days and weeks and you’ll maximize your success. If you are involved in a training program with the aim of seeking to maximize gains then you need to devote time to active recovery and not just chill on the couch with a beer after a long run. We”ll expand on that in another post.

-by Steve House

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