When our muscles need a break from heavy exercise and the body is allowed to rejuvenate, it is referred to as workout recovery.
Why do personal trainers design programs that gradually increase intensity over time and include rest days? Because there are limits to how much stress the body can handle before it breaks down. This is called adaptation.
The Principle of Adaptation states that when we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient. Like learning something new – it’s difficult at first, but over time it becomes easy.
Benefits of taking a break
Sports medicine expert, Elizabeth Quinn, notes that recovery time allows our energy stores to be replenished and tissue repair to occur. If we don’t allow enough time to recover, intensive exercise will continue to breakdown the body.
Taking time off also reduces wear and tear on joints and muscles. For those that train with weights, the stress placed on joints like your shoulders, could be put at increased risk. Even if the trainee mixes up exercise days and avoids training the same muscle groups daily, multiple consecutive sessions could still involve the shoulder.
During intense exercise like lifting weights, tiny tears in your muscles can only be repaired during rest. The workout recovery process is actually what makes your muscles stronger!
For those pursing weight loss goals, overtraining can cause weight loss progress to level off or even gain weight. Often, people trying to lose weight believe that cutting back on cardio will undue all of their hard work, but that’s not the case. Your appetite usually shrinks in relation to a recovery period, so you won’t feel the need to eat as much!
How much workout recovery is needed?
Now that we know that a recovery period can be great for our bodies, the question is ‘how much time should we take off?’
The most important element to remember about workout recovery is that it’s purpose is tissue regeneration and nutrient replacement. By being active in our daily lives, we improve circulation. Circulation brings nutrients to your tissue and those nutrients provide the critical material for improvement.
Thus, each day of the week should contain some level of movement and other days should include an intense workout.
So how much recovery is enough? According to Jonathan Ross, a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner and fitness/media expert for Discovery Fit & Health, it’s when muscle soreness is gone. Training a little above our current ability is important, but don’t train too far above them. That’s because better fitness is not achieved by long gaps between training days.
Now that you know why workout recovery is important, in part 2 of this article we’ll cover specific ways to recover faster.