We dip our toe into the water of understanding the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).


There is a rabbit we could chase down a very deep hole when talking about the Autonomic Nervous System. But the purpose of this post is just to say that the ANS is a real thing, it’s already operating despite our ignorance of how it works, but its well worth grasping a few concepts regardless. So, the quick, quick quick version…..



In terms of its effects upon your training as a regulatory system, because that is the context we are concerned about here, your ANS can tilt to either a Sympathetic or Parasympathetic dominant state.

When we are training, and about to train, we want to be Sympathetic dominant; alert and excitable. When we are trying to recover from training we want to be Parasympathetic dominant, we want to be calm and restful.

Being the opposite at the wrong time obviously is deleterious to overall improvement.


Overtraining that leads to Parasympathetic dominance will result in apathy, sleepiness, low resting heart rate, suppressed neuro-muscular excitability. In those cases the prescription should be to conduct variable intensity activity, encourage environment temperature changes, hot/cold showers and immersion, if at high altitude move to a lower altitude,


Overtraining that leads to Sympathetic dominance will result in restlessness, irritability, weight loss, increased blood pressure. In those cases the prescription should be for rythmic activity, cold morning showers, ultraviolet light exposure, swimming and cold water immersion, move to high altittudes.



So anecdotally, you know and are familiar with days when you have felt one or the other quite overwhelmingly, and training is difficult. You should also realize and acknowledge that these states are very trainable.

Without me telling you, you may already be aware that some people put a lot of value in the recording and control of biological markers in order to monitor the state of the ANS and then accordingly manipulate training loads, intensity and recovery selection.

When I say ‘very trainable’, also realize that the ANS can be altered very quickly. Note anecdotal experiences like what happens when all of a sudden you realize someone has stolen your wallet or when you start listening to relaxing music and sit down.

Also notice your frustrated combat with these phenomena, trying to awaken yourself after work by gulping down some pre-workout or do SOMETHING to try to relax after a tough training session and just fail.

This is where the free hugs come in, who doesn’t feel better immediately after a free hug? Or perhaps kittens! Watch people immediately change their disposition when encountering kittens.


Choose your free hug wisely.

It is at this time of year, that football codes start to get back into their off-season training. For those who are involved, the best help that SSS can be now is one of continued assistance in technical efficiency as well as now the new role as assisting to monitor recovery.

No doubt they will do better with free hugs, but we’ll also take a look a few markers like their heart rate variability over this period leading into the xmas break as well as their bodyweight changes. Most of all though, just how they generally feel and their perceived rate of exertion will be key to determining where extra work can be added, or workload reduced, and what sorts of recovery protocols can be pursued.

If this free hug doesn’t help your training recovery then nothing will.