Recovery is what actually allows muscles to repair after a workout. To build muscle, you must stress the tissue enough to damage it, but you also must give it a chance to repair. Working the same muscles day after day makes it harder for your muscles to repair and takes longer to see results. Plus you can cause some serious injuries. This is why you shouldn't repeat the exact same workout every single day and why you should build recovery days into your routine. Recovery is a structured rest period, which may be supplemented with light exercise (walking, hiking), a different type of exercise, or is just a day where you, yes, rest.
Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to break down from too much intensity.
Long-term recovery specifically refers to those recovery days that are built in to a training program. Most well-designed training schedules will include recovery days and/or weeks that are built into an annual training schedule. Built-in recovery in a training plan prevents injury and optimizes the benefits of exercise, including muscle growth. This is the reason athletes and coaches change their training program throughout the year, add cross-training, modify workouts types, and make changes in intensity, time, distance, and other training variables.
Lifestyle Factors That Help With Recovery
- Sleep. Make sure you are getting proper sleep. Sleep deprivation increases inflammation in the body, which can delay or even prevent muscle recovery and repair of damage to muscle tissue from a workout.
- Stay hydrated and stick to a well balanced diet. Focus on getting plenty of protein to help your muscles repair and grow. Eating a post-workout snack with protein, as well as some carbs is important. This will supply damaged muscles with repair materials and restock glycogen for energy. Hydration is also very important to the recovery process, so drink plenty of water during and after a workout...and all day long!
- Avoid alcohol....especially on workout days. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which slows blood flow to muscles. Alcohol may also impair protein synthesis, which is crucial for rebuilding muscles.
- Get the blood flowing. Cardio exercise is great for recovery days. Your body will actually adapt to cardio workouts and will create more and bigger blood vessels. This increases blood flow to muscles, which is needed for recovery.
Recovery doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and eating junk food all day. It’s actually better to move a little. A walk, hike, chores around the house, or a bike ride around the neighborhood are great ways to build in an active recovery day. These activities will get more blood flowing to muscle tissue, which is important for repairing muscle tissue. And remember to stay hydrated and eat well! Need help or advice regarding your workout routine? Reach out to one of our personal trainers today!