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Tolerance and capacity

Congratulations on returning to activity/sport/etc – we have missed you and are enjoying seeing all the friendly faces return to Jetts in Ballina.

As we go back to our favourite activities, I thought it might be an opportune time to build on our previous blog about return to exercise, and talk about the tolerance and capacity of our bodies!

Unless you are one of the dedicated (and enviable) few, chances are (like most of us) you have had a decrease in activity over the last 3 months. During this period of low activity, our previously once well-conditioned bodies have undergone a period of ‘deconditioning’.

We best define deconditioning as:

  • Multiple, potentially reversible, changes in body’s systems brought about by physical inactivity and disuse.

Aka – how quickly we become unfit during periods of disuse.

Now returning to activity poses an interesting question for us in the health field, as we definitely do want you back playing your favourite sports but we’re also wary that the body’s ability to recover is finite and a few weeks is rarely enough time to build capacity back to previous fitness levels!

I think the best way to understand this is to look at what we call a Stimulus Recovery Adaptation curve! This graph is what happens to our body when we undergo physical activity.

Source: Strong by science

The stimulus is our physical activity – it puts a dent in our homeostatic baseline (homeostasis = equilibrium), causing the body to react by enhancing recovery, eventually creating a stronger more robust self (after some well earned recovery time).

If we string enough of these disrupt-recovery-adapt cycles together, eventually we come up with something that looks like the below graph! You will note that the baseline has risen significantly over time.

Source: Barbell pursuits

During periods of extended rest however, this performance or fitness baseline decrease. It’s a real use it or lose it scenario when it comes to maintaining fitness.

So, with the knowledge that our baseline has likely decreased over the last few months, and that with time, we can build it back up to old levels its time for some practical takeaways:

  1. Start slow. Shorter than your old capacity if running, lighter than your old weights if lifting, slower than your previous bests if doing higher intensity training. You should walk out of the first few sessions feeling pretty good – let your tissues adapt

  2. You should be taking a break from intense training every 4-5 weeks to let things adapt and recover. Your body will thank you for it.

  3. Notice the signs of being too deep in the disruption phase. Generally, irritability, anxiousness, high levels of fatigue, lack of interest in being physically active, old aches and pains begin to arise if we ignore the early signs

  4. Throw in some variation, do something different! Usually run? Ride your bike! Usually lift weights? Go for a swim!

  5. Respect your bodies ability to recover – remember it is finite


Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.

Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage and strength and conditioning sessions with qualified practitioners.

If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.

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