Getting enough rest after exercise is essential to reach maximum performance, but many people over-train and then feel guilty when they take a day or two off. Rest days are critical to performance for a variety of reasons – here they are.
Your body repairs and strengthens itself in-between workouts, and continuous training will actually start to weaken the strongest athletes. Rest is physically necessary in order for muscles to repair, rebuild and strengthen. Getting more rest can help maintain a better balance at home, work and in the gym. Over-training syndrome can develop if there are too few rest and recovery days – a difficult condition to recover from.
Building recovery time into any training program is important because during this time the body replenishes energy stores and repairs damaged tissue. Allowing the body to adapt to the stress of the exercise and the exercise to come. Physical stress causes changes in the body – muscle tissues break down, glycogen is depleted (and doesn’t return to normal until a 24 hour period has passed) and fluids are lost.
Immediate and Long-Term Recovery
Short-term recovery occurs in the hours immediately following an intense workout. Engage in low-intensity exercise after workouts (and the days following) to see increased performance benefits. This will help your heart rate and breathing return to normal levels and avoid fainting or dizziness. Blood pooling can start in the larger muscles of the legs when vigorous activity is stopped suddenly, so do an adequate cooldown.
A major focus of recovery after an exercise should be replenishing your glycogen stores and drinking fluids. By eating the right foods in the post-exercise meal you can optimize protein synthesis (the process of increasing size of muscle without muscle wasting). BCAA’s are perfect for after a workout – learn more here.
Long-term recovery occurs on an annual training schedule. Well-designed training schedules should have recovery days and/or weeks built into them. Adding cross-training, modifying workout types and making changes in intensity, time, distance and all other training variables can make sure the body has enough time to rest and recover from continued physical stress.
Getting quality sleep is of major importance in both short-term and long-term recovery. Without plenty of sleep, you will start to go into sleep debt which creates a window for opportunistic infections to enter the body. And you might get sick after two or three days of inadequate sleep – this could lead to a week off of training to allow the sickness run its’ course. Although it might not be practical, try not to train too early or too late in the day – both can hinder your body’s recovery.
Proper training, nutrition, and recovery lead to success. The first has always been important, it took us years to realize the importance of the second and we all must be conscious of the importance of the recovery process.
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