Most people know that exercise and physical activity are beneficial to their health. But how much is too much? Many fail to take any time off from exercising and therefore they are not allowing their bodies any time for recovery. Too much exercise can be just as dangerous as not exercising at all! It is important to remember that exercise can prevent injuries, but it can also cause them! Rest and recovery is an essential part of any exercise program. In order to train more effectively, you need a recovery plan. This will have a significant impact on your fitness gains and sports performance.
During a workout, muscle fibers are damaged. When resistance is placed on a muscle through running, weight training, etc, the muscle develops tiny microscopic tears, which activate muscle building. The tears cause the formation of new muscle protein strands which increase the strength and size of the muscle. Additionally, the tears start the process of healing by creating new cells to heal the damaged tissue and relieve any soreness. This alters the homeostasis in the body, which creates stress. The greater the tear in the muscle, the more likely it is to have muscle soreness and an altered homeostatic state.
After exercise, recovery is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. Muscles are repaired and rebuilt only during the recovery period. Without proper recovery, especially after a workout that is too strenuous or prolonged, the body stays in the altered homeostatic state for longer than it should, which may lead to injuries. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.
Recovery should take place both during and after workouts. It is important to rest between weight sets or cardiovascular intervals as well as between workouts in the same week. For weight training programs, never work the same muscles groups two days in a row. Rest helps replenish your energy stores, which get depleted during workouts. People often don’t find the time to rest and relax, but it is one of the easiest things to do to promote recovery and repair. One easy way to recover faster is to design a smart workout routine in the first place. You will limit your progress and undermine your recovery with excessive exercise, heavy training at every session or a lack of rest days.
Stretching is another way to aid in the recovery process. It prevents the muscles from becoming knotted and helps improve flexibility. Additionally, it is important to remain hydrated to aid in muscle recovery and to keep heart rate and blood pressure stable. Water supports every metabolic function in your body and must replaced when lost through sweat. A lot of fluid can be lost during strenuous workouts and it needs to be replaced both during and after exercise. Endurance athletes who sweat for hours and lose large amounts of water especially need to replace their fluids for optimal performance and recovery.
Sleep is also extremely important. It is imperative to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to ensure growth hormones and cortisol are produced and balanced. GH is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair. Sleep also enhances protein synthesis, boosts immune function, and helps relax the nervous system. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly.
The most important thing that you can do to improve fitness, prevent injury and speed up recovery is to listen to your body. If you feel tired or sore, take a break or rest. Your body will tell you what it needs if you pay attention to it, rather than ignore the warning signs. The best way to ensure you are training and resting optimally is to consult with a personal trainer to design an effective exercise program and help prevent you from overtraining.