The Importance of Recovery
When you’re determined to achieve a fitness goal, the temptation is to go all guns blazing, packing in five workouts a week with an “all or nothing” attitude – eat, sleep, workout, repeat! However, after a hard session in the gym, your body needs time to recover. But why?
Workout after workout might seem like the right idea, but too many of them in a row, without adequate rest in-between, can lead to over-training and going beyond your body’s ability to recover. It’s a bit like a bag of sweets. Eat a few and you’ll feel happy that you’ve satisfied your sugar craving. Eat too many and you’ll end up with belly ache! Especially in the early days, it’s natural to feel as though you need to train flat out as much as you can (cram in the sweets), but excessive amounts of exercise, coupled with the failure to rest properly, can result in some rather nasty side effects (belly ache!) These include poor sleep, exhaustion, mood swings, lack of appetite, lower immunity, hormone changes, reproductive issues and decreased performance.
Overuse injuries include joint pain, muscle strain, tendinitis and even stress fractures (ouch!) Simply put, they’re caused by repetitive trauma to the body. The most common causes of overuse injuries are training errors and technique errors. A lethal pair when combined! By training errors, we mean taking on too much too soon, working out for too long, exercising too fast, or doing too much of the same activity; all without enough rest and recovery! Technique errors, or poor form, when tackling different exercises can take its toll on the body, overloading certain muscles and causing overuse injuries. With the above in mind, always make sure you learn the correct techniques, pace yourself, gradually increase your activity levels over time, prioritise recovery, and mix up your routine – adding variety to your programme to allow your body to use different muscles without overworking one particular group!
If you think that training more will help you reach your goals quicker (especially if you’re looking to build or tone muscle), then you’re probably wrong. After intense or prolonged exercise, it’s especially important to give your body time to repair the muscle tissues that have been broken down. It’s through this process that muscles change, adapt and gain size and strength. When you push your body back into performance mode before its ready, it interrupts the re-building of your muscles and, ultimately, prevents you from reaching your goals.
How’s best to rest?
There are many ways to help your body recuperate after exercise, strenuous or otherwise. Sleep, as obvious as it might sound, is one of the most effective ways to help your body recover from the physical and mental demands of working out, so hit the pillow early if you can!
Keeping nourished and hydrated is another vital aspect of both training and recovery. Some healthy grub is just what’s needed to keep your body topped up with energy to enhance performance and recovery, while water actually helps to speed up recovery and eliminate feelings of soreness by removing toxins and keeping your muscles working properly.
Massages (who doesn’t love one?) also aid recovery by helping to relax and loosen muscles, increase the flow of oxygen and blood around the body, remove lactic acid (the stuff that makes you sore) and deliver nutrients to the muscles.
A firm favourite amongst runners is foam rolling which assist recovery by improving blood circulation and breaking down knots which can limit your range of motion.
Another recovery technique – often used by elite athletes – is the ice bath; certainly not one for the faint-hearted! It works by causing the body’s blood vessels to constrict and force blood away from the muscles. Then, once you’re out and starting to warm up, your vessels open up, which allows oxygen-rich blood to flow back into the muscles, supporting recovery.
So, the next time you think about skipping a rest day, just bear these points in mind. There are many physical benefits of allowing yourself time to recover post-workout, so make sure rest becomes an important aspect of your training.
For more recovery tips, or advice on how to add recovery into your programme, talk to one of our expert fitness coaches the next time you visit SmartFit35.