Rest and Recovery – Rules of Fitness #8
Rest & Recovery
A standard refrain post gym is the complaint of how sore you are! Jokes about leg day and stairs are common. Rest and recovery are a vital component of any successful training regimen. Without it, you run the risk of over-training. Over-training can cause your progress to plateau. It can cause fatigue, weight gain, and take a hit on your immune system. Because of this, you want to ensure that you are giving your body the break it needs to bounce back from your workouts.
The Relationship Between Exercise and Recovery
You carve time out of your day for the gym. Train with focus and intensity. You prepare your meals with care. But did you know that the benefits of exercise don’t kick in until after your workout? Your body actually gets stronger after the gym, not in it. This is what makes the recovery period between your workouts so important. Exercise, whether it is sprints on a field, lifting weights in the gym, or doing a Zumba class, all tax the body. Exercise taxes the energy pathways in your body and puts metabolic and mechanical stresses on your muscles and skeletal system. Recovery time is when your body is adapting to those stressors, and actually becoming stronger. Proper recovery involves proper care of your muscles, bones, and connective tissue.
What Kind of Proper Care?
Fortunately, there are LOTS of ways to give your body the care it needs after your workout! Consuming the right kind of nutrition post workout, the quality and quantity of sleep, taking rest days when needed, and self-care all make a difference in how your body adapts to training. Consider rest and recovery to be like maintaining a high performance vehicle…you are maintaining your body so it can perform at its best.
When you exercise, your muscles expend a lot of energy and experience a lot of stress. You need to feed those muscles after a workout, and research suggests that the body needs to replenish energy with carbohydrates and repair tissue with protein. Having a post workout snack or drink with a proper ratio of carbs-to-protein can help with both needs. Recent research suggests that having your snack within 30-45 minutes of exercise will optimize the benefits. For more on fitness nutrition, check out this post on fueling the body.
Sleep is probably one of the most important components of your health and wellness on the whole. The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be understated. Your body does most of its repair work at night when you are in REM cycle sleep.
How do you know it is time for a rest day? When you feel like it! If you are feeling tired, fatigued, or sore from training, it might be time to consider taking a day off. It does not need to be a couch potato kind of day, use a rest day as a day for mental and physical rejuvenation, whatever that looks like to you. What that looks like to me is a long walk with my dogs, or a swim in the lake, or a hike with my husband.
Take time out to tell your body you love it. Heat from a sauna or a hot tub increases your circulation, which moves vital nutrients and oxygen to your muscles while removing waste. Alternatively, cold treatments like ice baths or cooling vests, used for a brief period of time, can reduce inflammation and promote healing in the tissue stressed during a workout. Massage – or myofascial release – helps to reduce muscle tightness and improve range of motion. Whether its splurging for a massage or using a foam roller at the gym, your body benefits.
Treat Your Body Right…
…and it will perform for you. Too much exercise without proper rest and recovery can lead to illness or injury, which can both keep you out of the gym and stall your progress. Give your body the rest and recovery it needs to allow your muscles to adapt and grow. Take rest days when you need them, make sure you get enough sleep, fuel your body properly, and watch as it all comes together in a recipe for success.