In summary, the human body is so complex that no formula can determine an optimal recovery duration between training sessions. You will need to find your unique recovery time by experimenting on your own.
Always keep in mind the principle of “use it or lose it.” Never wait longer than necessary between training sessions or you will impede your improvements. At the same time, overtraining also has a negative effect. It will deplete your physical and mental energy and require prolonged rest periods.
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One of your key tasks is to find the optimal amount and frequency of stress to put on your body. The extent of this stress is commonly referred to as training load.
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You will always need to be the judge of your training load, or how intensely you should be training. But to do so, it helps to have a useful framework to think about how much stress you are subjecting your body to. One of the best ways to quantify this is with the Training Load Factor (TLF) framework. It decomposes training load into three components:
• Frequency: The number of training sessions within a period
• Volume: The amount of training time during each training session
• Intensity: The intensity of each training session
In the framework, the product of multiplying these three components together is the Training Load Factor. Mathematically, the equation is as follows:
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Training Load Factor = Frequency x Volume x Intensity
A good way to think about this equation is that you can choose two components to emphasize and one to sacrifice. If you want to train six or seven days per week, or even twice per day, you need to reduce either the volume or the intensity of each session. But if you stick to a lower frequency of three or four times per week, you can make each session count more by working long and hard each time.
All athletes use a combination of these three components to reach their desired training load. Even at the elite level, you will see this trade-off. Some athletes take few rest days, one or less per week, but keep the training volume lower on each day. Others take at least two strict rest days per week but train long and hard on the other days. Another common trade-off is within the day. Some athletes train in two or three shorter sessions, while others stick to a single longer session.
Additionally, you can lower intensity to accommodate a higher volume and frequency of training. Many athletes do this by using some sessions to practice skills at low intensities. Another method of lowering intensity is through active recovery days. On such days, an athlete might jog, swim, or row at an easy pace. These types of training sessions are much less taxing on the body and can even aid recovery.
No matter how you break down the three training load components, do not apply the same training load as more experienced athletes. Training age is a powerful determinant of the amount of load your body can handle without overtraining. As your experience increases, you will build up tolerance to a greater amount of load. This is especially important in CrossFit, where much of your training will be at high intensity. Such workouts stress both your muscles and your nervous system more than you are probably used to. Gradually increasing your training load over time is important for long-term results.
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