“No Pain, No Gain,” and “Go hard or go home,” is what they say to train and be your best, right? Yes it’s true, but only on your hard training days – not every day. If you want improvement, then yes, you have to push yourself further and harder than your last workout and you will feel muscle fatigue throughout the workout and most likely soreness hours to even days after. However, in order to improve, your body also needs adequate rest, which can be hard for a person who is in the mindset of “Go hard or go home!”
What Is a Recovery Day and Why Do You Need It?
Recovery or rest days are necessary for a training schedule, and are needed on both short and long-term levels. The short-term recovery is the immediate recovery day following a hard workout throughout a week of training. This is needed because of the muscle tissue damage that was caused during your workout, as your muscles are repairing to adapt to another exposure like they just experienced. A long-term level recovery is based on a seasonal training schedule, where you let your body heal and recover by changing up your training routine and workouts after a number of weeks or months. For example, if you are training for four months leading up to a marathon with your workouts primarily focused on running, you’ll want to change up some of your workouts to cross-train with other activities, preferably less high-impact cardio like biking or swimming.
You need to build in these recovery days for both physical and psychological reasons. Physically, after a hard workout, your body is repairing muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons, and replenishing energy storage to adapt to and optimize your next training session. Allowing your body to rest and repair will not only improve your endurance and strength, but also prevent possible injuries from overtraining. Mentally, if you continue to push yourself without rest, you may feel burned out, fatigued, and even depressed, which may turn you off of your workouts all together.
How to Relax and Recover
Rest and recovery days don’t mean that you sit around and do nothing all day; and there is a difference between a “rest” day and a “recovery day.” A rest day can and should be that – rest. Remember, this is good for your body and mind to take a break from your training schedule and enjoy the day of rest. However, still get out and move your body; maybe a leisurely walk with a friend or your family, a recreational bike ride, yard or house work, or stretching are examples of being active, yet resting from your training.
Along with that day of rest, a recovery day or two should also be built into your training week. This is an “active recovery,” which means you still are working out, just lighter – not pushing yourself as hard as the previous day’s workout. You still want to get your heart rate up and oxygen and blood pumping to those muscles, as this will help in their repair. Depending on the type of training you’re doing and what your intentions are, this could mean you cross train to a lower impact activity and lower your intensity exertion a bit or maybe you take it to an active yoga class, such as a power, vinyasa flow, ashtanga, or hot to loosen up those muscles and get a low impact sweat in.
Along with building in a rest day and a day or two of active recovery days, you want to be sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep through the night. The only way to train hard at your optimal performance levels and see results is if you’re allowing the repair process to occur, which happens during sleep. Getting 7-8 hours per night in necessary for your body to experience the sleep cycles needed for muscle and tissue regeneration, as well as the proper hormone release that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. Lack of sleep can cause decline in the growth hormone secretion and is associated with increased obesity, loss of muscle mass, and reduced exercise capacity. If you’re having trouble getting those essential 7-8 hours of sleep, check out these options to get you from counting sheep, to a restful nights sleep! Dream Water is a 0 calorie shot and comes in delicious flavors like Snoozeberry! Redd Remedies atEase promotes healthy brain function and calms nervous tension at bedtime. NeoChill promotes calmness by helping the body and mind to “chill out” without dulling the senses or exerting a hazy, enervated feeling.
Enjoy your rest and recovery days and know that you deserve them; they’ll help make you stronger and healthier!
Charge UP Health | Fitness
Rena Roark, CHC, CPFT, is a Certified Health Coach and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and owner of Charge Up Health and Fitness, LLC. She works with individuals and group clients as a health and fitness coach to offer support and guidance for their health goals through a holistic look at their lives, helping to find balance between exercise, diet, career, and relationships. Providing accountability and motivation, she can help reduce stress, increase energy and self-confidence, and ultimately help individuals work towards the best version of them.
Please be aware that this article is not a diagnosis, prescription or recommendation for any individual. Before you start a new exercise, diet, or supplement program, you should always talk it over with your doctor. He or she may have specific recommendations — or warnings — depending on your health and the other medicines you take.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
LIVESTRONG.com, “Sleep and Muscle Recovery.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/155363-sleep-muscle-recovery/