We are all aware of the beneﬁts of exercise and you probably work hard to design a challenging workout program. However, we often neglect the really important 60% of an effective training program: rest and recovery. This article is about getting full recovery of both mind and body so you're refreshed and "ﬁghting ﬁt" for your next session; not just resting one body part for two or three days while you chisel away at the others. With these techniques, you'll speed up your body's adaptive processes (recovery) which will leave you stronger, ﬁtter and leaner in less time!
Group ﬁtness instructors do a great job of stretching us out after a class. This "cool down" is a very important and often neglected part of any routine. Failure to do so, whether after a class or after training on your own, can negatively impact all the effort you've just put in to reaching your goals. Another high priority immediately after a workout, needs to be hydrating and refueling. So be sure to take in the appropriate ﬂuids and calories, even if your goal is weight loss! A properly fueled andhydrated body will be able to recover faster causing your next workout to be more effective. Other simple things you can do, post-workout, are foam rolling, wearing compression garments for an hour, going for a massage and yes, even a ten minute swim in the pool.
These activities help increase blood circulation and reduce inﬂammation therefore speeding recovery. Also, instead of spending several days being completely inactive while you wait for your next session, schedule at least one of these "off days" as an active recovery day. An example of an active recovery day would consist of a light warm up to start, a low intensity 20-30 minute activity such as a brisk walk or a 5-a-side soccer or basketball game followed by a long cool down stretch. This active recovery will help loosen muscles and further stimulate blood ﬂow.
Research has shown that long workouts (especially longer than 60 minutes) causes an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone). Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to the breakdown of precious muscle tissue and even weight gain! Keep the workouts concise and once you are ﬁnished, relax. When you can, take some "down time" for yourself. Try calming music and maybe a soothing beverage while you're away from the high tempo environment of the gym or even work. Probably the most important thing in your "recovery tool belt" is sleep. While a quick "power nap" may feel invigorating, your body is recovering (repairing) maximally during REM (dream) sleep. Your aim should be to get as close to 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
Finally, listen to your body. Fatigue, illness, prolonged soreness, irregular sleep patterns and changes in mood and appetite are some of the signs of over training. If left unchecked, over training will derail your training and can even leave you sidelined with injuries. In conclusion, be sure to get sufﬁcient sleep, hydrate, refuel and relax before your next session. You will feel and see the positive difference it makes in your training.
Article summarized and written by Kudzai Muzorewa, Duty Fitness Instructor, Innovate HPC