We all know the power of exercise. It keeps us fit and healthy, and even if we don’t enjoy it at the time, those post-exercise feel-good endorphins sure do pack a powerful hit. But the good work shouldn’t stop when the workout stops. Recovery after exercise is just as important, especially after a particularly intense run, gym session or spin class.
Why we need to recover
We need to give our body a chance to recover so that we can go and do it all over again, plain and simple. Once that out of breath feeling and the sweat have disappeared, it’s easy to think we’re recovered. But the muscles take time. For example, say we lift weights on arm day. Lifting the weights causes tiny little tears in the arm muscles. And it’s when the body starts to repair these tears, that the muscles build up, and become bigger. Dietary protein helps this process, which is why post-workout protein shakes are so popular.
Also, when we exercise, we use up our natural reserves of glycogen that the muscles use for energy. These need to be replenished ready for next time. All that sweating means fluid loss too, and that needs replacing during rest.
What happens if we go too far
Exercise stresses the body. That’s why it hurts. But those pain signals are doing us good. They’re telling the body that it needs to get stronger to deal with that stress next time. In other words, it needs to adapt to our regime.
If we overdo it and don’t allow time for recovery and for our energy stores to replenish, our muscles, and our body, don’t have time to repair. This leads to a frustratingly weak session next time. But not only that, long-term, this could lead to an inability to sleep, feeling irritable or depressed and generally feeling lethargic. This is known as overtraining syndrome.
If you’re not letting your body recover properly, then you really do run the risk of injury. Being too weak and pushing it or feeling frustrated at feeling weak, can lead to accidents or injuries that could impact massively on your training regimen.
Taking rest days is one of the best things one can do to help with training progress. So never feel bad about taking them, even if / especially if, you have a big event coming up.
How to effectively recover
If one is to recover and optimize the reduction of exercise-induced muscle inflammation, one must factor in regular rest days for the body to essentially repair its muscles and restore proper levels of glycogen into the muscles.
It’s critical to perform regular stretching sessions post-exercise to support the use of a foam roller when stretching – this process is called self-myofascial release and may be as effective as a deep tissue massage.
Try putting on compression wear straight after a big session for an hour, to speed up recovery.
If you’re brave enough, try an ice bath. Take it a step further. If you’re even braver, try an ice bath followed by a hot shower and repeat. Three times.
When it comes to nutrition, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of lean protein, non-refined, whole wheat carbs and plenty of green leafy vegetables. This will ensure that your body is refueling itself with vitamins and essential minerals.
Most importantly, stay well hydrated and listen to your body. Don’t push it too hard. This will help reduce the risk of exercise-induced injuries.
These are all ways human performance can improve. Supplementing is just one way of helping someone recover. It’s important to take various steps to recover in order to thrive.