We talk a lot about exercise and activity but one area that can get forgotten is rest and recovery time. Here we take a look at why, when and how you should include recovery time in your work schedule.
Why is recovery time essential to fitness
Exercising your muscles is the only way to make then stronger. Cardio vascular activity such as running, cycling and swimming are the best ways to get fitter. However, it is not during the actual exercise workout that improvement occurs. The workout will break down muscle tissue, it is the recovery process that is critical to becoming fitter.
Without adequate recovery, your body will never have the time for the biomechanics processes responsible for muscle repair and building to take place.
Weight training recovery
Lifting weights includes eccentric and concentric muscle contractions. Eccentric involves the muscles shortening. For example, see how the bicep shortens as you lift it towards the body in a bicep curl. Concentric contraction involves the muscle lengthening. This is how the muscle works as you lower the weight in a bicep curl.
Eccentric causes greater levels of muscle damage and so takes longer to repair. After a hard workout you should rest the muscles that were trained for 48 hours.
Recovery from running
The terrain upon which you are running plays a huge part in how long you need to recover. Running in hills causes the muscles to work far harder than running on the flat. For this reason you should give your body two or three days’ recovery time from a hill session, whereas if you are training on the flat, you can do running on a daily basis and still make fitness gains.
Recovery from cycling
If you have done a hard cycle ride or event, then a recovery ride the next day will enhance the recovery process. The ride should be on the flat and you should stay in an easy heart rate zone. Anything that makes your legs burn will increase fatigue rather than aid recovery.
Get enough sleep
Quality sleep is essential for a good recovery. Alternatively, poor sleep will result in diminished mental performance and an increase in the body’s stress hormone cortisol. Poor sleep can be a result of over-training and will impact both your subsequent ability to train and compete at peak performance. If this is the case with you, you may need to ease off the throttle until you reestablish good sleep patterns. It is worth noting that the old adage about needing eight hours sleep doesn’t apply to everyone. It is the quality of the sleep that is more important than the length of time you are sleeping.
The importance of nutrition
Muscle recovery time is strongly influenced by what you consume to fuel those muscles. Writing for the Livestrong website, “Racing Weight” author Matt Fitzgerald notes that recovery is influenced by four factors, all of them related to nutrition: fluid and electrolyte status, muscle glycogen, reducing muscle stress and rebuilding muscle protein. Taking in fluids and carbohydrates both during and immediately after a workout, says Fitzgerald, is vital to a speedy recovery. You should eat a high-protein meal as soon after exercising as possible in order to ensure a rapid rebuilding of muscle tissue.
In summary, overtraining and failing to recover is something you should avoid. Not only can it undo all the hard work you put in down the gym, but it can also disrupt your every day ability to function. You will become lethargic, unable to sleep and irritable. What’s more, the disruption it causes to your body’s systems can actually lead to weight gain – ironic, but definitely not funny.