According to one of the study’s authors, Olli-Pekka Nutilla, the results point to the fact that there is no universal standard when it comes to endurance training and recovery. “We wanted to use multiple variables to monitor recovery, to get a holistic view of the current state of recovery,” he says. This study, funded by fitness wearables brand Polar, shows that recovery isn’t black and white: you need to consider multiple factors (data and otherwise) to measure how well your body bounces back after a workout.
The study used several markers to measure recovery, including perceived fatigue and muscle soreness, as well as heart rate variability (HRV), since, “there is good evidence to support the use of HRV in stress (physical and mental) monitoring.” Nutella notes.
“The third factor we used was the HR-RS index, which basically measures the difference between the actual and estimated speed at a given heart rate (HR),” he says. “So, if you run faster at a certain HR, HR-RS increases and vice versa. This marker was used because we also wanted to have some indicator to monitor changes in actual (running) performance.”
Participants with individualized training plans were tested twice a week on their recovery status. Based on that, their training was adjusted (either reduced, maintained or increased) based on how well they recovered using the optimal range of data mentioned above.
In terms of personalized recovery planning
Study participants (consisting of 20 male and 20 female runners with an endurance training background) who modified their training based on recovery conditions improved their running times by twice as much versus those who trained without adapting their plan to recovery conditions. “Every subject in the individual group improved their performance from baseline on the treadmill test, so it seems like there’s very little chance of ‘getting it wrong’ with this type of approach,” Nutilla says, and anecdotal evidence backs up trainers like Erica Bloom. , expert pilates instructor and founder of Erika Bloom Pilates, observes with her clients.
“The results of this study support what I have found in my decades of working with athletes and runners,” Bloom said. “It’s important to allow recovery time based on each individual’s bio-individual. We are each unique and so one training program doesn’t work across the board.”
One of the main takeaways from the study is not to be afraid to reduce your training load, for example running less than you might need on your program if you haven’t recovered enough to take it. This can be harder for athletes than increasing their load because most people see progress as linear. “I think a lot of competitive and recreational runners struggle to adapt their training program,” says Nutilla. “Although this can be challenging at times, the whole point of monitoring recovery is missed if one does not dare to reduce training load while suggesting monitoring variables. So”
How to tell when to push or scale your training
Use wearables that track recovery
Thankfully, fitness technology has made keeping track of recovery-related stats like HRV remarkably easy. Hoop and Oura are two popular options that give you what you call your HRV and, depending on the device, other stats that indicate your recovery status, like your resting heart rate, your sleep, and more. The Hoop gives you a recovery percentage and the Oura has a “readiness” score, signaling when your body is ready to train again or when you might need to take it easy.
Check in with yourself
As Nutilla points out above, perceived fatigue (aka how tired you feel) and muscle soreness are both indicators of how well you’ve recovered from your training. Take a minute to check in with yourself based on these two factors to see if your body is really ready for training or if you need a rest day.
Bottom line: individualized recovery is about training smarter, not harder
Remember, studies have shown that people who reduced their training load after not recovering well actually ran faster than those who ignored the body’s recovery state and pushed it. Essentially, they were optimizing their performance rather than operating on autopilot, which could be the key to better results, Bloom believes. “Our bodies have recruitment patterns that lead to more efficient running.” He says “Efficiency results in greater speed and endurance. When we run before we recover, we don’t fully access those patterns—whether from muscle fatigue or our facial length or fluidity is disrupted. This leads to slower times or shorter runs. .” Neither is helpful if you’re in it for the long haul.