I spent the weekend in Turkey enjoying the mountains just outside of Istanbul. It was a great rest for my body after a nice training block since my last Hyrox. This brings up the topic of how you should balance exercise with rest and recovery. 
This conversation is of course reserved for people who are consistent enough with their training to veer into the possibility of overtraining. The average person just does not do enough movement to warrant this as a debate. One exception to this, is when novice and inconsistent exercisers go a bit mad every January and for a short period of time are overtraining. However, the result is usually that they just quit their exercise routine rather than persist on and end up suffering from overtraining. 
It is important with this concept to understand the process of how getting fitter works. The idea is you give the body an exercise stimulus that is enough to initiate a response to increase that ability. The body then develops your fitness through the following hours to days as it recovers to makes you better at that exercise element. You would then need to repeat the process again soon enough to continue to develop the fitness element. Over time you will see noticeable improvements. 
As you get fitter you will need a greater exercise stimulus to improve fitness. This could be higher volume, more intensity, greater frequency, a specific type of stimulus or a combination of all of these. 
In the immediate period after exercise you are less fit in that element, you do not get fitter during your exercise but when you leave the gym or similar and the body starts recovering. During this recovery you are slightly worse at that element than previously, e.g. if you lift 100kg today, you probably cannot do it again tomorrow. However, maybe later in the week you will be able to lift it again and perhaps a little more. The same applies to cardio exercise.
As well as the immediate fatigue created from a workout, there is also the accumulation of fatigue from previous sessions. This links into the idea of super compensation, where you train really hard and intense for a period, then pull back the exercise greatly or to a complete stop and after a break you will rebound with your best fitness yet. The exercise approach known as Periodization was based around this. 
A huge component of this process is your body’s ability to recover. There are various things you can do to help which include – 
Sleep – Perhaps the biggest, and most underrated is the duration of your sleep. The body can do wonders in regenerating itself but not if you are scrolling social media at 1am in the morning. Getting to bed earlier in the evening and the amount of hours you sleep are clearly related to recover.
Food Intake – Giving your body the calories it needs, the vitamins and minerals it requires as well as ensuring adequate protein all positively aid recovery. Another under rated element is removing foods that irritate the body via the various possible mechanisms available. 
Supplementation – There are supplements that can support the recovery process, which would include performance enhancing drugs which super charge the body’s response and recovery time to training.
Massage – The use of muscle massage techniques (sports massage, self-massage, foam rollers, lacrosse balls, massage guns etc) can greatly aid recovery by stimulating blood flow in the muscles and releasing tension in the joints that may lead to injury. This also links to various other treatment stimuli such as ultrasound etc.
Stretching – The simple process of stretching recreates some of the benefits that come from using the massage techniques above. 
Hot / Cold Treatment – Ice baths and hot baths have been shown to aid the recovery process through their effects on blood flow and inflammation and can be a helpful tool to add to the process.
The higher your performance level, the more training you do, then the more important these methods become to optimising fitness and avoiding injury. 
There are two sides to recovery, one is whether the system wants to go at that exercise intensity. This will show up in your heart rate vs time/performance for aerobic activities. Central system fatigue you can clearly see by how bad you are at exercise if you are slightly ill. For most people though their key recovery element will be how well they avoid injury. This is especially true for running, which can cause pains and injuries on much less volume than other exercise forms, e.g. spin biking.
Signs you may need more recovery include persistent niggles, pains and not increasing performance after a rest / de-load period. It can also show up as a lack of enthusiasm/energy to train, increased resting heart rate or a lower heart HRV score. 
If these things are present then you should take a de-load week or two and re-examine your training programme. The one worry people have with backing off training is a fear that you lose fitness. This is really an overblown fear. Your body does not just lose fitness overnight. You have to be away from it for an extended period, and even if you do that, you can get back to your fitness much faster than it first takes to develop it. For example, I have not done much running for 12 years and it has taken me just under 7 months to get back to my times from a decade ago. 

What Does This Mean For You

If you are a very regular exerciser then you should factor in recovery. Ideally you would take a whole week off exercise at least twice a year. You should structure in weekends off periodically as well as using regular rest days. You can really maximise your training loads if you make use of the recovery strategies listed above. I would use the signals that you may be overtraining to guide your exercise efforts. Be careful with following other people’s training programmes, especially with running. Higher performers have spent many years training the body to be to able to handle higher running volumes which therefore allows them to run much faster than average joggers. 

Photo – Some pictures of me recovering from training while away in Turkey last weekend,

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