I cannot overemphasize the importance of recovery. Overtraining, under-sleeping, and overstressing can all lead to poor recovery. Over time this can result in stagnation or injury. What if you aren’t recovering from your training sessions even after you've addressed stress and sleep? This is where Autoregulation comes in.
Autoregulation is a great preventative tool that can help keep you from running yourself into the ground through your training. Autoregulation simply means listening to your body; pushing yourself when you’re having a good day and backing things off a bit when you aren’t. Now, this is NOT an excuse to miss training sessions or slack off on a regular basis. It IS a way to approach your training that will allow you to continue for many years to come.
Here are 3 ways to Autoregulate your training:
Lighten the Load
Often athletes view their training program as set in stone. They go in thinking, “I will do 3 sets of 5 reps with 100 pounds on the bench press.” But what happens when you’ve only slept 4 hours because you had a work deadline to hit? 100 pounds may feel more like 1000 on that day. You may be able to grind it out, but this increases your risk of injury and overtraining. If you lighten the load a bit you will be able to improve your technique and potentially prevent an avoidable injury. This will also allow you to really bring it in your next training session.
“Wait, didn’t you just say to lighten the load?” I did, but sometimes Autoregulation means adding weight and pushing yourself harder! If you are feeling good and having a good day, then go for it! Add 5 pounds or do an extra rep or two. This will help make up for the days when you weren’t able to push quite as hard. All too often I see people coast through training sessions even when they are having a good day.
Take an Extra Day Off
Maybe you didn’t sleep well, your entire body hurts or something came up and you missed your regular workout time. Instead of feeling guilty and beating yourself up, take the day as a recovery day. Go for a walk on the beach or spend some time stretching at home. Eat a good meal, go to bed early, and get after it tomorrow!
So what does Autoregulation boil down to?
When you feel good, push it! If weights feel light or your pace feels easy, ramp it up! This is a good day, so take advantage of it. When you feel rundown, tired, and beat up, back the weight down or take a day off completely. It's better to perfect your technique than stick to the plan and end up hurt. Finally, embrace that most workouts will be somewhere in between great and good enough. Most importantly, show up, trust the process, and get the work in.
“One out of 5 workouts is really good. One out of 5 is terrible. The other 3 are you just showing up.”
–Dan John, Strength Coach