I always like to write about topics which I have recently been discussing with friends or clients. With everyones New Year resolutions of becoming fitter and healthier in full swing, i’m finding that not everyone is building rest and recovery into their programme. Sadly these people may burn out, loose motivation due to not seeing the outcomes they desire, or worse become injured.
Resting is just as important as working out. Sports science has shown over and over again that rest and recovery are important elements of the training cycle. It’s an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle along with other wellbeing. Rest also helps reduce injuries, by preventing overuse.
Many people stress that taking a rest day will effect their progress towards their fitness goal. Don’t worry, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable reduction in your performance level or fitness.
The Difference Between Rest and Recovery
Rest is time you spend sleeping and not training or exercising. You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn’t involve working out and you need to keep your heart rate down.
Recovery goes hand in hand with rest and is all about techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair, restore chemical and hormonal balance, help with nervous system repair, relieve muscle soreness, improve flexibility, and restore energy storage levels. It includes hydration, nutrition, posture, heat, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, and time spent standing versus sitting versus lying down.
A little bit about muscle tissue repair and hydration:
During strenuous exercise such as resistance training or aerobic threshold intervals, muscle tissue develops micro-tears. Once you stop exercising the recovery process immediately starts. Your immune system detects this damage and sends in the
pro-inflammatory cells called neutrophils and macrophages to the affected areas, which help to stimulate regeneration of the damaged area. That feeling of soreness is caused by increase fluid flow and a growth hormone called insulin-like growth factor-12 (IGF-1) is also secreted. The binding of this protein to special receptors in damaged areas causes the signaling of cell growth while prohibiting cell death. The IGF-1 hormone also signals satellite cells to initiate the growth of new muscle fibres, which is great news for your fitness goals. To aid in this repair process, you need to make sure your body is hydrated. If your cells don’t have enough water in them, protein synthesis can be delayed. If you’re dehydrated, your body may even start breaking down muscle tissue, which can undermine your fitness goals and make your muscles weaker. There’s no set guideline for how much water to drink right after exercise. At minimum, you should drink water until you no longer feel thirsty. Many sports nutritionist’s recommend drinking 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during and immediately after your exercise if you sweat a lot. Temperature should also be taken into account.
A little bit of glycogen recovery:
Glycogen stores must be replenished following extensive exercise. Glycogen is your fuel source that is stored in your muscles ready to be converted into energy. Carbohydrates are the main source of glycogen, and are your bodies preferred fuel source. The liver mediates the conversion of glycogen into glucose for quick energy consumption during exercise. As well as fuelling muscles for your next exercise session, glycogen is also important for recovery, you don’t want your body breaking down muscle or if you’re very thin your fat stores.
A little bit about stress and hormones
All other activities outside of our exercise and training, can be categorised into either
- Sympathetic activities – often referred to as “fight or flight”
- Parasympathetic activities – often referred to as “rest and digest”
Our careers, relationships, finances and all of the other daily activities required for survival are sympathetic activities. These are stressors and can increase our levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This can lead to ….
- Insulin resistance and poor blood sugar management.
- Decreased thyroid hormone output and a reduced metabolism
- Depression, sleep disruption, and food cravings
- A reduced sex drive
- Amino acid loss from muscle
If this is chronic, production of stress hormones can slow and the development of ongoing fatigue could occur. This type of fatigue is central, or neuromuscular. The body has been revving too high for too long and it’s shutting down.
Balancing stressful activities with relax and recovery is paramount to counteract this.
On your rest day and throughout the week, its good to include some mindfulness rest and recovery. This can be as simple as:
- Breathing exercises
- Taking a bath with added essential oils
- Having a massage or facial
- Reading a book
- A gentle walk
- Gental yoga
If you want support and guidance on nutrition, hydration, recovery as well as exercise. Join my 4-week Body Blitz Programme