When it comes to working out, one of the most important things to be sure of is that you are not ‘overtraining’.
Overtraining is what happens when you work out too hard, too regularly. Over time, this causes the body to become exhausted by the constant production of adrenaline (known as adrenal fatigue) and by the constant strain on the central nervous system. If you’ve ever experienced overtraining, then you’ll know that this is a serious condition that leaves you unable to train in the gym for weeks.
The question then is, how do you know if you’re risking overtraining? How do you know when your body has recovered and you’re ready to hit the gym again?
One possible answer is to use a ‘hand dynamometer’.
What Is a Hand Dynamometer?
A hand dynamometer is a small device that you can buy fairly cheaply on Amazon or in most health stores. Essentially, this works like a grip trainer, except it also has a display that shows a readout of how much pressure you’re exerting. That means that you can then find out exactly how much force you can generate with your grip in KG or lbs. For anyone interested in strength training, this is a great figure to be able to read, as it correlates with your general strength and can help in all your other lifts.
What’s more though, is that grip strength is also correlated with recovery. That’s because both recovery and grip strength are apparently indicators of c:t – your cortisol to testosterone ratio. If you aren’t fully recovered, then there will be a great proportion of cortisol in your blood and you’ll struggle to grip as tightly.
This is best measured in the morning. So spend some time finding a ‘baseline’ and then keep the dynamometer by your bed. Check each morning and if you hit the baseline, you’re good to go!
Heart Rate Variability
Heart rate variability is another measure you can use to try and ascertain whether you’re fully recovered from your previous training or not. The idea is that HRV tells us to what degree the sympathetic (fight or flight) or parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems are dominant. If you’re still in ‘fight or flight mode’ then this suggests that you might need a little more time to recover as you’re still ‘amped up’ from your last session. HRV tells us this because our sympathetic nervous system is tied closely to our breathing and in theory, breathing in and out should create more variance in our heart rate when we’re relaxed and recovered.
To measure this, you will need to use either a specific device or an app for your smartphone. Be aware though that many smartphone apps of this nature don’t quite work as well as you would hope and the data may not be entirely reliable.
Actually though, you can also tell whether your sympathetic nervous system is still in high gear simply by monitoring your heart rate. The more stressed you are – mentally or physically – the higher your heart rate will be.
This is not a perfect measure by any means seeing as so many different things can affect HR. Nevertheless, if you take your pulse first thing in the morning before you’ve had a chance to raise it in any other way, this will give you a fairly good idea of how worked up you are and whether you should be training. Take a few readings when you know you’re relaxed and use this as a ‘baseline’ that you can measure yourself against.
Over time, the hope is that all this information will help you to become more in tune with your body. Eventually, you should be able to ‘feel’ whether you’re ready for action or whether you need a bit more time to lie low. The trick then is just to listen to your body!