Are you one of those people who breaks out of the gate every January with your workout? It’s so great to see people be so enthusiastic about getting fit and losing weight at the beginning of the year. However, I see many people fall into the trap of working out too much and wanting instant gratification to achieve their fitness goals that they end up injured or sick.
The concept of more is better is what many people believe when it comes to working out but it’s simply not true. I see so many people burn out in the first few weeks of starting a workout routine. One of the most common mistakes people make is that they don’t take enough rest and recovery between their workouts. Paying attention to how your body feels and responds is extremely helpful in determining your recovery needs but also prevention injuries. Here are some tips to help you figure out how much rest you need and how to recover.
Short & Long-Term Recovery
Short-term recovery otherwise known as active recovery is what happens to your body after a workout, several hours post-workout, and the days following a workout. If you are engaging in a high intensity workout, your body requires more recovery times and therefore you would allow for more time off in between workouts. If you are performing low-moderate intensity workouts, then the recovery time would be less.
If you have long-term fitness goals or training for something specific such as a race or even building muscle mass, then long-term recovery needs to be built into a year-round training schedule. Either way, both short and long-term recovery is linked to performance benefits.
Learn to Balance
I’m a big fan of keeping a training log even if you are not training for anything in specific. If you’re new to exercising, keeping track of your workouts (frequency, intensity, time, & type of workout) is essential to learning how much recovery you need between workouts. Things such as HR (heart rate) and perceived exertion are great tools to determine how you feel and it comes in handy determining your recovery needs so you can modify your exercise/training program accordingly.
If you are new to fitness and are only working out a few days a week at a low intensity, the need for recovery is much lower. For an athlete who has a higher level of fitness, (they are training at a higher intensity and effort) they require a greater planned recovery. After performing a certain exercise/s on a few different occasions, you will be able to determine how much rest your body truly needs.
Recovery is Multifaceted
There is more to recovery than just rest. Recovery also includes proper hydration, post-exercise nutrition, stretching, and sleep.
Hydration – After completing a workout, you need to replenish your body from fluids that have been lost. Water is the best way to hydrate as using flavorings simply just puts additives into your system which gives it more to process. If you are looking to spice up your water, then add some fresh slices of lime, lemon, or even orange.
Post-exercise nutrition – Consuming the right foods post-exercise is crucial. The rule use to be a couple hours post-exercise to re-fuel but now studies are showing within 24 hours of HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) to is sufficient. Try avoiding foods such as alcohol and processed foods as they contain toxins are harmful in the body’s ability to recover. I am a whole foods/plant base eater so I do recommend getting lots of carbohydrates back in to your body along with a little protein, not the other way around. Remember that when you exercise, you are using energy stores (glycogen) so it’s very important to replenish those carbohydrates post-exercise. What you decide to eat is up to you but try experimenting with different foods to see how your body reacts but also how your body performs in the next workout.
Stretching – Depending on what type of workout you complete, will determine the type of stretches you perform on your body post-workout. We stretch post-workout as a way to decrease the risk of injury, prevent muscle soreness and improve performance. Stretching complements your routine by bringing balance to the body.
Sleep – Everyone had individual needs but the general rule is 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep provides mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. Also, as we sleep the brain recharges. When you sleep, your body recovers, and when you recover, your body can replace, repair and re-build which is what we require to move forward with our training and work outs.
‘The body achieves what the mind believes’, is a quote that I live by. As a runner and an athlete (I believe there is an athlete in all of us) I use visualization techniques for not only my clients but for myself. Whether you are a high-level athlete or just your average 3 days a week athlete, we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform and maintain our fitness goals. I find that this can be very draining and exhausting. Regardless of how hard or how often you work out, our minds need to recover.
Outside of our physical training, we also have jobs and we require mental focus to get us through our day. If we don’t allow our bodies the time off in between workouts that it deserves, we can become mentally fatigued. Take the time to re-charge your body but allowing yourself time to do fun things that are not focused on structured workouts. For instance, if you are a runner who needs a day off from training but don’t want to sit on the couch, get outside and go for a walk on a trail.
Tomorrow’s Task: Take a look at your current program to see if you have enough recovery time in between workouts.
If you do not allow your body to fully recover from an exercise session, especially a strenuous one, you run the risk of injury. If you are lifting weights, try breaking up your program so you have at least 48 hours in between each workout. Trying doing a 3 day split so the tissues in your muscle have the time to heal. If you are performing a HITT workout, then take at least 48 – 72 hours before you perform the next one.
There are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before our bodies break down and an injury occurs. Learn the principles of adaptation when it comes to exercise. Speak to a personal trainer to help you develop a program that increases time and intensity without sacrificing your body to break down.