Is “Recovery Debt” Keeping You From Reaching Your Fitness Goals?

In our first part of the series, I uncovered the truth about how your body works and why it is possible you are working too hard to achieve your preferred fitness level. This week, let’s dive deeper into the intensity mindset…

When we ask too much from our brains – and bodies – and tap so deeply into energy expenditure, we end up in “recovery debt”. When we over-work, possibly on top of a body that is already exhausted, we are digging deeper into recovery debt and can’t expect our bodies to work, build, burn, etc.

Recovery debt is what happens when you put stress on all the cells and tissues involved in training, without also giving them the energy they need for recovery and repair. You go to your various matches, classes, running, etc. pushing yourself to fatigue and yet it never quite seems to pay off the way that it should, or the way that you thought it would. This is possibly based on someone else’s story or experience or our never-ending challenge with “comparison syndrome” in fitness.

Many of the people I follow in the fitness industry have been discovering for years now that we only have so much energy to give. When we “overdo” it and don’t allow ample recovery, you are cheating your bodies of what it really needs: rest and recovery and time to repair and actually burn calories. Oh, yes, and over half of Americans suffer from sleep wakefulness disorder (awaken in the middle of the night), making it impossible to recover from just the day, let alone your 6am circuit training session or 5-mile run.

Coach and Performance Architect, Joel Jamison believes

“…the single biggest thing holding people back from reaching their fitness goals is exactly that: they are living in a constant state of recovery debt.”

When we don’t allow our nervous system the time and rest it needs, we also cannot expect our muscles to rebuild.

So how can you take my challenge to achieve your best fitness without exhausting your nervous system? These are but 12 of 100 ways I can help you reduce your stress so you can achieve your best fitness:

  1. Downshift every day to relieve stress
  2. Take control of your day, choosing how you spend it wisely
  3. Move naturally throughout your day
  4. Learn to breathe correctly during and outside of exercise
  5. Make sleep your most important appointment of the day
  6. Have and cultivate a strong sense of purpose
  7. Find your right Tribe: Cultivate close friends and strong social networks
  8. Consider meditation and mindfulness as a daily practice
  9. Make time for self-care that is free
  10. Don’t allow exercise to be your sole strategy for stress relief
  11. Consider “exercise” as play, instead of a stressful event
  12. Relax your face while you exercise!


As always, we are happy to entertain questions or meet you for a free 30-minute consult. Just email us at to schedule it today.


  • The latest from Adrien
Adrien founded Fitness on the Run in 2004 out of her home after a successful career in policy and public affairs communications. After spending 15 years developing her own personal definition of wellness and watching thousands struggle with theirs, in January 2019 Adrien founded Alexandria Wellness, the home for the Concierge Wellness Program and Corporate Wellness with Adrien Cotton. Over the course of 15 years, “FOR” was home to more than 2,000 clients, 30 instructors, and hundreds of inspirational success stories. Adrien is now, more-than-ever, passionate about helping women view their fitness as a journey, not a quick fix. Adrien’s recipe for success herself has evolved from a rigid training plan of sweaty and heart pumping workouts to some days getting in her 10,000 steps, consciously breathing, her 7.5 hours of sleep, and her beloved 5-Minute Flow. Adrien believes the most important ingredient is making small changes for big results, even if it’s one new habit formed each month. Still passionate about fitness, Adrien’s clients appreciate her ability to make sessions seriously challenging without a “beat down,” a healthy mix of strength and metabolic (cardio) work and ultimately helping her clients gain real strength in mind and body. She believes we all benefit from being curious about our bodies and that change, or improvement, is within reach despite what your “inner voice” or others may tell you. Adrien is bubbling with excitement to help women learn the importance of a comprehensive approach to wellness, weight loss, and contentedness with yourself, and that every person has the right to feel good about themselves. Most days, you can find her helping clients with their wellness, listening to success stories, and bragging about her twin 13-year-old children and “fittest man in Alexandria” Bill Cotton. Adrien prides herself on her practice of mindfulness, meditation, and putting it all into perspective.

Alexandria Wellness offers achievable answers for anyone who is tired of chasing fitness and health without a clear plan, someone who has struggled and is not satisfied with their fitness and wellness or someone who is open to maximized healthful longevity and fitness along with healthful weight loss. Adrien and her team offer help with food guidance, body acceptance, sleep and stress issues, and insist you have fun along the way.

Schedule your free 30 minute consult here!

Alexandria Wellness
215 North Payne Street
Alexandria, VA 22314



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get your daily dose of all things fashion, beauty, fitness, and design. Locally sourced and locally styled!