Your high school coach (and every other trainer you’ve worked with since) has probably drilled a simple idea into your brain pretty well: Too many days off will ruin your fitness. But what about the opposite: How long does it take to get overtrained?
“When we think about overtraining, the most important thing is not intensity—it’s really volume,” says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist who works with Olympic athletes. So, think you had a couple of tough workouts and you might have overtrained? You probably don’t need to worry.
When something may be up: if, for many days, you’ve been increasing the intensity and frequency of your sweat sessions without recovery. Do this and you could be on your way to what Weiss calls “overreaching”—the step before overtraining. “And within 2 to 3 weeks, you can overtrain if you’re not recovering correctly,” he adds. (Check out these 12 Signs You’re Overtraining.)
But if you overdid it, that doesn’t mean you need to shut down and head for the couch. “Once that happens, we tell elite athletes that you can keep up your intensity, but you just have to alternate every day with a rest day.” Even better: You’re not doomed to regress. “A lot of people worry about how long it will take to get back on track,” Weiss says. “But if you reduce the training volume and recover right, within 21 days, you’ll be back to normal.”
Here’s the thing to remember: Rest days don’t consist of lying in bed with a shake. Here are four things you can do to speed recovery—whether or not you're already burnt out.