Rest and recovery is extremely important for feeling strong and being able to perform to your best standards. Many athletes and gym goers tend to disregard the importance of giving their body the correct tools and enough time for fast recovery.
Overtraining can result in injury, dangerously poor technique and loss of motivation to exercise. It is, therefore, very important to take the time off the gym and allow the body to replenish it’s energy stores, in order to achieve the best performance next time you train.
What happens during training in the muscle?
Our muscles have 3 ways of producing energy. One uses oxygen and glucose (or glycogen) to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate)- aerobic; the other two - anaerobic, occur in the absence of oxygen, and produce either lactate or Creatine Phosphate (CP) with ATP.
All 3 pathways produce ATP, using different resources of the energy. ATP is the universal energy molecule that our cells use to fuel our daily activities and exercise.
Unfortunately, ATP cannot be stored in large amounts, in fact, it is stored in very small amounts and it is not simple to produce. The Creatine Phosphate system is the most efficient of all, but requires the longest amount of time to recover from.
All exercise uses up different sources of fuel, and therefore different methods of recovery are required to replenish the stores.
How do you know you are not recovering enough?
There are a few signs you are not allowing your body to recover enough to fuel your training:
o Lack of motivation
o No appetite
o Cannot lift the weight you were able to before
o Mood swings
o Loss of excitement about life
o Trouble to concentrate
o Aches and pains in muscles and body parts
o Athletic performance is hindered
What is the science behind recovery?
During exercise and activity muscles are depleted of their energy stores. In order to stay healthy and active, we need to take care of ourselves and make sure that our body is restoring the energy and recovering properly for the next training session.
There are several ways that you can enhance your recovery, through both nutrition and actions. Below are 6 of my favourite tactics to use for recovery:
Alter rest time and types of sets you do
Not every exercise you do at the gym can to be at 100% of your max strength, especially if you are lifting heavy. Programming sufficient rest periods into your sets and between them, or low intensity exercises, will allow your muscles time to replenish their stores of ATP and be ready to work again. The duration of rest required to recover depends on the type of exercise you are performing.
Active rest days
Program in days where you do very light activity, which allows your muscles to rest, but you will still keep active. For example, in a resistance training program, it is great to do some cardio on these days, as it removes the lactic acid from muscles and also uses a different energy pathway.
Massages and foam rolling (SMR)
Relaxing your muscles via a massage or with a foam roller will help the recovery, as a tight muscle will not be able to contract as efficiently and produce as much force as a relaxed one, because it is already partially contacted. This means it will be harder to lift a weight or perform an exercise, and require more effort in the next training session. Tight muscles are likely to place stress on the body and will disturb other recovery processes.
Cold showers/ ice baths
The ice baths are pretty extreme and are only used by elite athletes, as the energy and time required to do this is quite large. However, cold or contrast showers are a great way to stimulate muscle recovery. Best way is to do small bouts, and not use this recovery type on a regular basis. Cold can help faster muscle regeneration, as post leaving the cold temperature body processes speed up, consequently speeding up recovery.
Compression clothing works by putting pressure on blood vessels and body tissues, which speeds up the blood flow, thus allowing a faster recovery rate as nutrients and repairing materials will be transported to the muscles faster. Ensure that you do not have any contraindications to do it. Compression clothing can be bought online, in some pharmacies or in specialised stores.
Eat your cake
You must fuel your fitness, if you are not eating enough, you will not be able to perform. A balanced diet, including fats, carbohydrate and protein is the best way to achieve a healthy and strong body. A sufficient calorie intake, tailored towards your fitness goal, with a good variety of foods in the diet, is the best you can do for your body. A doughnut or cake here and there will only help you, so treat yourself. Balance is the key.
Rest and muscle recovery is super-important, be your goal weight loss, maintenance or muscle gain. Make sure you are doing the right thing for your body and you will be able to work at your best performance and enjoy training to the full.