Rest is training too, you know!

RestYou may not expect us to advise you to take a break, but for any exercise or sports program to be fully effective there has to be sufficient recovery time – otherwise your next workout or training session might just take you backwards!

You see, the entire physiology that makes exercise work is the principle of adaptation. This is where your body receives the message from your efforts, as to what it has to endure and in response it begins a process of rebuilding and preparing your body for the next time you challenge it.

It’s a bit like renovating a home: you knock out a few walls, rip up some old tiles, then replace them with new ones and it looks like new again. Exercise gives your body similar feedback; you challenge your body, and in some microscopic way, tear down a few million cells, which then regroup and regrow and in most cases, the renovation is very specific to the work
you did. For example, resistance training rewards you with a stronger body, while running sprints rewards you with an improvement in your speed. These types of rewards are relatively minute on a day- to-day basis but over time they add up to create a better version of you.

The tricky part is, usually the recovery takes much longer than the workout. Just as it takes longer to lay new tiles than it does to rip out the old ones, your body needs time to replenish, recuperate and rebuild itself. In fact, the higher the intensity and duration the workout, the more recovery time required. For training sessions of longer but lower intensity – like a steady bike ride – you can probably back up the next day with minimal fatigue or soreness. But a heavy weights sessions or intense hill climbs on that bike, and your muscles may require several days before they are fully ready to attempt a similar feat. The good news is, if you mix up your workout types and targeted body
parts, you can train most days and, while one area is getting a relative rest, another can be hard at work.

All that considered, unless you are a highly competitive athlete or chasing an extreme goal, the best advice is listen to your body. If you feel sore today, try something different. If you feel fatigued and low in energy after a recent hard session, listen to your body and give it a break. Otherwise by not giving yourself time to recover, your workout can seem like walking on wet cement, and you’ll potentially be undoing all your hard work and damaging the very thing you are trying to improve.

While the best cure for feeling lazy is often a workout, the best solution for a fatigued body is good nutrition and rest. Let the miracle of recovery happen, and the next day you should feel ready to get back into your routine. With proper planning and rotation of training formats, you can enjoy year-round peak performance and good health.

From OH Magazine, May 2014

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