I believe that this is the area of training most often skipped and the least understood aspect of a full training program. The body tissues heal best when they are at rest – yes we must do the work phase but then we must have a rest phase if we expect the work phase to yield any results.
WORK + REST = SUCCESS
The body can not handle high intensity training all the time – no body can – not even Olympic or professional athletes. They may train every day but some training days are designed to specifically help the body heal and repair. For the general fitness participate it is just as important – you are living your life – right!! – a high performance life – right!!! – you have a requirement to recovery from today’s activities so that you can participate in tomorrow’s. Don’t care who you are, how fit you are, how strong you are (physically and mentally), you need rest to improve.
Recovery/Regeneration does not mean sitting on your couch eating potatoes chips and ice cream. There are a number of factors that are included in a complete recovery/regeneration program. The program starts immediately after the work phase has been completed. In the traditional fitness program this was the stretching phase and sadly if performed at all, it was the only thing done for recovery. Stretching continues to be important but today’s fitness/training programs also utilize foam rolls and mini balls that can be used to massage worked muscles and tissues. This phase should not be shorter than 8 – 10 minutes (really it is should account for 25% of our workout time) and should never be skipped. Even if it means doing it later in the day – don’t do this and your injury risk goes up with each passing day as does your ability to perform efficiently.
Nutrition plays a critical role in recovery from exercise. Within a half hour of training we should have a mix of protein and carbohydrate to re-supply the body with nutrients used during training. The protein is important to start the healing and repairing of tissues and carbohydrate to keep the energy stores up. One relies on the other in a well functioning body.
Sleep is as critical as the other two as our tissues heal best and most while we sleep. A full night’s sleep allows our bodies to heal, repair and grow and therefore create a better overall level of health and wellness. Lack of sleep and therefore proper recovery makes it very difficult to achieve any training results. Lack of sleep is the major reason many people can not lose weight or improve their basic level of fitness. In order to make changes the body must be working at or near optimal and this means 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night for an adult. We can not catch up on sleep so once deprived it will take time to restore the body to a normal rested state.
Stretching, nutrition and sleep are the essential, must be done every day, aspects of a recovery program. The recovery program can also include hot tubs, hot baths, massage – of any type, yoga – not power yoga, hot/cold contrasts and many other low intensity activities. Making sure that you recovery from today’s activities will ensure the ability to perform tomorrow’s activities at the high level you expect from yourself.