No pain, no gain. You can rest tomorrow. Push beyond your limits. Those are supposed words of encouragement that many of us heard in our childhood and adolescent years. From our parents and coaches. But this approach most often leads to over-use and excessive strain on our joints, muscles and tissues. And results in injury and frustration.

100% Performance – What Does That Mean

Muscles are energized to control our movement. They store energy in the form of glucose – the fuel for them to contract and relax as we move our bodies, perform our activities and control our static and dynamic postures.

When their energy supply is depleted, muscles will reflexively stop working – they cramp up and contract irregularly – resulting in a feeling of shakiness and heaviness as a result of muscular fatigue. You must adjust your performance to respect the fact that your muscular energy supply has been depleted when your muscular gas tank is empty.

When muscular fatigue occurs, you have achieved 100% of your muscular performance. The good news is that your muscles will respond to this stimulation. With regular activity they will metabolically and physically strengthen over the course of 4-6 weeks,

A Recovery Day – defined

Once muscles use 100% of their energy supply, muscular metabolism requires 48 hours to replace it – to completely fill your muscular gas tank again. This is physiological recovery time that must be respected as your muscles replace glucose, remove metabolic waste products, and as they repair and recover from physical exertion.

Downward Spiral

If you try to achieve 100% performance within the 48 hour muscular recovery time, your muscles will be limited. The maximum performance you will be able to achieve is 90% as compared to the prior day. By not respecting the muscular metabolic recovery time, your performance will be reduced.

Many of my patients have experienced this – with daily activities, athletic and work performance. Their mindset is often to push themselves to 100% performance every day. That’s understandable, and often a result of self-imposed and external (family & work) demands as well.

However, this results in a downward spiral – a decline in performance, with 90% performance on the next day, 81% maximum performance on the third day, 73% on the 4th day, etc. With a trend of declining performance while increasing the level of effort, this can be very frustrating. And often leads to injury as well.

Performance Improved

The great news is that by respecting muscular fatigue and metabolic recovery requirements, your performance will improve. On the day after a 100% performance day, decrease your activity level to a 50%-75% level of effort, drink lots of water and pace activities to respect muscular fatigue. Adjust your goals – including the demands placed on you by your family and work – to allow metabolic recovery. Get some good sleep.

The result – by allowing a muscular metabolic recovery day your performance will increase to 105% on the next day. Apply this to your daily activities, your work and your recreational and athletic goals. That’s how you will make incremental gains in your strength, endurance and performance over the course of several weeks and months.

Take Home Message

Respecting muscular fatigue and muscular recovery is important. Set your schedule of activity to push yourself – within the limits of muscular fatigue and pain – every other day. Focus on the quality and technique of your movement, and respect the quantity. Pace and adjust your activity level on the “off” days to allow muscular metabolic recovery. Life will sometimes get in the way, and you’ll not always be able to make these adjustments. That’s ok.

However, with this approach – giving your muscles and your body to have the metabolic recovery it needs – will allow you to make consistent gains in strength and endurance.

It’s important for you to take control – telling yourself and your significant others that your recovery day is just as important as your 100% performance day. Your muscles, your body and your performance will respond!

My best to you in health & wellness,

Dr. Darcy