Is there “too much” recovery a person can do? I see a lot of runners on social media who rack up tons of miles daily, some that sound like they do little to no recovery. The times when I haven’t been injured, it seems like I can only run every other day because my legs, mainly calves and Achilles, need more time to recover in between runs. Then I thought, maybe I’m trying to do too much recovery. Can trying to recover too much stress the muscles more so than if I just did a little recovery?
— John D.
Answer: Dr. Marc Robinson
Thanks for your question. You are right. The length of recovery varies and may depend on the volume and intensity of your training. Increased volumes and intensities will require a slightly longer rest period. To answer your question, an extended rest period is unlikely to cause harm. But here is an argument for “overdoing it” with recovery.
If you spend too much time recovering, you may not provide enough training stimulus to see the progress you want. Increasing your performance with running depends on progressively overloading your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. So basically, you want to overload your body, but not too much. It’s a delicate balance. If you don’t provide the stimulus needed to adapt then your body won’t adapt as quickly.
After intense exercise, there may also be an increase in inflammation from structures which were over-stressed. For example, if the Achilles’ tendon was over-stressed during the run, there may be minor inflammation of the tendon. Gentle range of motion exercise or a light, walk/jog run should help the body to recover from acute inflammation. Light exercise during the recovery period helps to desensitize pain and facilitate recuperation.
Many people get impatient with the time it takes to adapt and increase the intensity of their training too quickly which can result in an injury. Proper training progressions will help to mitigate this potential risk of injury.
This is the main argument I would use to support the idea that you can “overdo it” with rest. You have a higher likelihood of getting injured from overtraining and not resting enough compared to resting too much. I would not be overly concerned with resting too much. It sounds like you are resting appropriately between consecutive runs but this depends on the factors I have mentioned, among others.
To your health,
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Dr. Marc Robinson is a Physical Therapist in San Diego, CA who provides online physical therapy and virtual consultations for those who need on-demand help with injuries. His company, Evercore offers online injury prevention courses and fitness products to promote a pain-free, active life. They specialize in low back pain and helping their clients achieve health goals beyond what the traditional medical system can offer.