Confessions of a Recovery Dwarf

Are You A Recovery Giant or Recovery Dwarf

In his work years ago, Dr. Doug McGuff presented a concept that has stayed with me to this day.

The essences is that each of us owns genetics predisposing our recovery and adaptation. Our DNA strongly influences one as being gifted with recovery skill from training or ,cruelly, shifts us towards poor recovery.

To provide an example Dr. McGuff uses the comparison of a genetic mutation expressing giantism or dwarfism. As an example he says we are either recovery giants or recovery dwarfs.

These are extremes ends of the continuum since most fall in the middle of the bell curve, but the point is crystal clear.

As an athlete and a coach I began to focus more on responses. Dr. McGuff suggested training that would allow for an appropriate dose of training - DOSE APPROPRIATE TRAINING PROGRAMS. He says that recovery dwarfs can not subject their genetic limitations to a program tailored to the recovery giants. An individualized approach would serve most athletes better.


If total body strength work two times per week yields positive results then why subject an athlete to more?

If 20 running miles per week improves commonly known metrics why run more exposing the joints and muscles?


Many years have past and new research has occurred. New tools to aid in revealing his hypothesis are inexpensive and widely available.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) can zero in on the dose appropriate response with a high level of accuracy. Knowledge of the constrained model of energy production, and affordability of genetic (DNA) testing are other tools.

I concluded long ago that my personal profile revealed poor recovery and weak response to higher training loads. It was intuitive. This has been confirmed with HRV monitoring since 2010 and recently with additional DNA study from UK based DNAFIT.

My appropriate DOSING is a moderate level of intensity. I possess no organic gifts here.

What does that look like you ask.

-No more than two high load days and at least one recovery session.

-Appropriate calorie load. Enough to support activity and health without long term exposure to excess. A macro nutrient distribution of 45% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 25% fat seems to be a sweet spot.

- After fighting sleep for decades I now know that my best performances occur with a consistent sleep schedule of 8-9 hours.

Should I test my limits with additional high load training days, start eating like a fifth grader or miss sleep I will pay dearly. I will exhibit above normal fatigue and poor workout performance and annoying muscle and joint irritation.

Uber competitive type A personalities are at high risk for too much training. Group classes are a breeding ground for too much or too little. The former is clearly the worse outcome.

I type this confessing my own faults and temptations attempting to grind to the top! I could not and can not keep up. As the years pass this has become even more apparent.

I want all athletes to be successful. I encourage all that I work with or know to lean on the tools available and to honestly find that DOSE APPROPRIATE training plan. A coach can help provided appropriate training tools are being utilized.

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© 2017 by Coach Rut.