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The Importance of Recovery After Exercise

We all know that rest and recuperation after exercise is important, but still many of us feel guilty or lazy if we take a day or two off after a particularly vigorous workout or competition. However, rest and recovery is an active process that’s essential to maintain fitness and performance.

How does rest help?

Your muscles and connective tissue need to repair the many micro-injuries sustained, as well as to build themselves up even more as a result. A day or so in between sessions also helps to prevent overtraining syndrome, which can be a real blight.

What happens in recovery?

Your body repairs itself – damaged tissues are rebuilt and made stronger and the glycogen stores in your muscles are replenished. You also have time to replace lost fluids and nutrients. The recovery time is actually when the benefits of your training happen.

If you don’t have enough recovery time you can start to feel weak, depressed and ill; your performance will suffer and you won’t be able to recover from or avoid injuries.

Short-term recovery

Short-term, or active, recovery happens in the hours and days after an event or heavy workout. Your cooldown phase is the start of it and this light activity, combined with rest, is what will enhance your sports performance. A good night’s sleep is also important.

It’s during this period that you’ll replace fluids, nutrients and glycogen, as well as synthesise the proteins that both repair damaged muscle as well as create new muscle mass. Your other tissues, like your tendons, will also repair themselves and rid themselves of the harmful chemicals that build up as a result of intense exercise.

Long-term recovery

Long-term recovery is a different sort of affair. This involves rest periods and even changes of workouts that are scheduled over the course of a year or a season. This schedule will include longer rest periods of a week or so, combined with changes in the intensity, style, distance or even type of discipline used for training.

You need enough sleep

Everyone has the occasional poor night’s sleep and this won’t usually have too much of an impact on sporting performance. However, if you frequently go without enough sleep, you’ll start to see negative effects on your muscle strength, mood, motivation and recovery. A lack of sleep can affect your stress levels, leading to too much cortisol which in return suppresses growth hormone and glycogen synthesis.

It’s all about balance

You have to find the right balance of exercise and recovery to allow your body to develop and grow at its ideal pace. Too much exercise will be detrimental, and too little will slow your progress, so listen to your body, as well as to your trainer.




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