Rest and recovery are just as important to exercise programs as exercise itself.
Rest refers to the time spent when you’re not training. It is a dreaded four-letter word for those of us that get a high from spending hours in the gym every day. However, we need it to repair muscle. Recovery involves more than muscle repair. It includes nutrition, hydration, ice, stretching, stress management and more. It refers to all the actions we take to avoid over-training.
Both rest and recovery are essential to every fitness regimen and help to prevent injury and increase performance. Though they are probably the easiest things to do, they are the least planned and often go overlooked as part of a training plan.
During a workout, resistance training causes tears in the fiber and connective tissues of muscles. Recovery is required to improve strength and see gains. How much rest and recovery your body needs will depend on the intensity of your workouts and your fitness level. It can vary from as little as 24 hours to as much as 72 hours.
For beginners, plan to rest for one to two days after a full-body workout. That does not mean it’s okay to lounge on the couch for two days with a bowl of chips, though. You want to give your muscles a chance to recuperate by staying hydrated, fueling with good nutrition and engaging in light activity like walking.
For those training on consecutive days, split opposing muscle groups. Split sessions target each area twice per week and a split routine gives more time (two to three days) before training the same muscles again. Consider spending more time on each muscle group and training at a higher intensity. To maximize your recovery, rest days should include things like foam rolling, yoga, walking and other light-intensity activities.
Listen to your body and make sure you warm up adequately before each workout, especially if you are working out at a higher intensity than usual or if your body is not used to the exercise. This will help with muscle soreness. If your muscles still ache after an intense workout, it is best to wait until they fully recover.
When the muscles have not recovered in between training sessions, it can lead to fatigue and decreased strength. This is called over-training and can regress your fitness and strength. Over-training can lead to insomnia, injury, mood swings and even illness. If you feel you have reached a plateau, consider whether recovery is an integral part of your regimen and do not underestimate its importance.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.