Most of us know that rest & recovery after exercise is essential for our minds and our bodies, but many of us still over-train and feel guilty when we take a day off. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, (continuous training can actually weaken us). Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. Rest days can also help us to maintain a better BALANCE between home, work and our fitness goals.
What Happens During Recovery?
Incorporating recovery time is important because this is the time that our bodies adapt to the stress of exercise; and allows our body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, our body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of fatigue (more than usual), decreased motivation to exercise, decreased performance and seeing the first stages of a nagging injury, among others. Another major focus of recovery immediately following exercise has to do with replenishing energy stores and fluids lost during exercise by eating the right (whole & unprocessed) foods in the post-exercise meal.
Adaptation to Exercise
The Principle of Adaptation states that when we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient. It’s just like learning any new skill; at first it’s difficult, but over time it becomes second-nature. Once you adapt to a given stress, you require additional stress to continue to make progress.
There are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and risks injury. Doing too much work too quickly will result in injury or muscle damage, but doing too little, too slowly will not result in any improvement. This is why we have set up specific training programs (there’s a reason for that de-load week) that increase time and intensity at a planned rate and allow active recovery throughout the program.
Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Performance
In general, one or two nights of poor or little sleep won’t have much impact on performance, but consistently getting inadequate sleep (less than 7-9 hours) can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood. Everyone’s needs are a little different, but some research indicates that sleep deprivation (less than those 7 hours) can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis. Other studies link sleep deprivation with decreased aerobic endurance and increased ratings of perceived exertion. So, GET TO SLEEP EARLY TONIGHT!
Balance Exercise with Rest and Recovery.
It is this balance that takes us to a higher level of fitness. The greater the training intensity and effort, the greater the need for active recovery. Paying attention to how your body feels and how motivated you are is extremely helpful in determining your recovery needs and modifying your training program accordingly.
What to do?
Active recovery refers to engaging in low-intensity exercise during the days following the workout. Incorporating mobility and light activity during your “off days” is important. Take time to work on mobility for injury prevention, go for a bike ride, head out for an easy jog, incorporate mobility, practice yoga, roll, smash, mobilize, mobilize, mobilize!
So, plan your active recovery with your specific goals in mind and enjoy your day “off”.