Practical Tips For Recovery





Recovering properly and well is a hot topic nowadays. There are plenty that still find it hard to stomach, and sell the harder, faster, more approach. But it’s definitely getting more air time, which is great! Slowly people are learning how to track their recovery and their readiness for exercise with tools like HRV, what signs are typical and/or personal in terms of indicating the need for more recovery work, whats methods to use when, and what constitutes a recovery session in the gym.


The intention here is just to briefly highlight the difference in symptoms of the overtrained state you may find yourself in, so that you can learn to recognise both. And to give some basic methods to utilise to help pull you back in to balance. Just quickly before we go further, what I mean by balance is balancing your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Your SNS is fight, flight, freeze. Your PNS is rest, digest, rejuvenate, reproduce. It’s important to understand that we are designed to be in a parasympathetic state most of the time, it’s our default that allows long term survival.  Our SNS helps with short term survival, in don’t die situations. The problem is that modern world stressors are dealt with hormonally in exactly the same way as our cave man day “don’t die” situations. The difference being that we are always exposed to modern day stressors. But would not have always had to be running from a predator.


So we need to keep working to balance these two systems because we can’t be dominant in both at the same time. That is if we’re stressed or not putting in recovery work, we’ll be SNS dominant, and cannot be in our default mode - the PNS. Most of us have enough SNS activation and need to balance the extra stress our lifestyle places on us on top of our training stress. This comes in the form of doing recovery work. By far the most important methods to promote recovery regardless of where you’re at are correcting your sleep hygiene, taking time out from lifestyle stress (both probably the most difficult for people), eating clean and modifying training.


Joel Jamieson of  is an awesome well of knowledge and advice when it comes to these topics. Below is a table containing a bunch of information his information that I’ve put together in a way that simplified the whole topic for me and athletes/clients. Everything down the left of the chart relates to being sympathetic dominant, and the right relates to being parasympathetic. If you aren’t using some measurement to help you track your training progress, hopefully this prompts you too. Something as simple as tracking your morning heart rate can do a lot for your progress. Though don’t rely on anything other than a chest strap heart rate monitor if measuring for training! Most other tools like aren’t accurate enough at elevated heart rates.


Having said that, regardless of what tools you use to help measure your readiness for training and your recovery/progress, keep in mind they are not the be all and end all. They definitely help, but you must learn to tune in and be honest with yourself on any given day. Just because Tuesday is usually a 90% effort session, doesn’t mean you do it regardless. Even if all your tools say you’re good to go, sometimes you just won’t be feeling it. If that’s the case you need to listen to your body! As a general rule, if I for those I train feel that way and want to try to train, I put a 10min limit on feeling much better. Start training, 10min later if you’re feeling really good, your intensity is right for the day. If not, do a recovery session or leave the gym! 


Anyway, see the table below. Hopefully the practical tips it gives you will help you be more proactive in your recovery! Train smart.




Short Term Fatigue/Recovery 

Long Term Fatigue/Recovery

Signs and symptoms of sympathetic overtraining Include 

*elevated resting heart rate, 

*irritability, restlessness, 

*poor sleep, 

*weight loss, 

*poor performance, 

*and low libido.

Some of the symptoms of parasympathetic overreaching/overtraining 

*general lethargy, 

*lack of motivation to train, 

*drop in morning resting heart rates  *lowered heart rates during training, *excessive sleep, 

*heavy fatigue, 


*no libido, 

*low blood pressure.

*IF you can/do train reduce your intensity

*IF you can/do train reduce your volume and intensity

Methods aim to reduce stimulation:

Methods aim to increase stimulation, gently:

Relaxation techniques



-soft tissue massage

-hot water therapy (38deg plus) 5-25min

Intensive Deep Tissue 

Float tanks


Flexion positions directly after training

Contrast therapy (hot/cold) - check out Joel Jamieson’s site for methods.

Electro Acupuncture/Acupunture - deliberately with restoration in mind! 


Active recovery session. 20-40min. This time includes your warm up and cool down - that is any stretching/foam rolling work you do. A good time to do prehab/rehab. Heart rate wouldn’t go above Maffetone’s 180 - your age rule.

Active recovery - length of time and intensity would most likely need to be modified compared to an active recovery session from short term fatigue. How much will probably be a bit trial and error until you learn about you more.