Exercise is important—it is vital to our health, but we already know that. But just as important is our recovery time in between our exercise sessions. You may have experienced what a lot of my clients have told me—the overzealous ones. They have a great workout session on any given day of the week and then 24 hours or less afterwards, they try to workout again—something similar to the day before and they can’t seem to accomplish much, but the previous day, they had a great workout and were able to complete their exercise assignment.
Why can’t we do a repeat performance soon after a successful workout? The answer is that our bodies must recover adequately from exercise. As we reach a higher plane of exercise, our recovery times might be less, on the other hand, the more intensely we work out, the more important recovery becomes. Without proper rest and recovery between sessions, we can’t get the most out of our exercise.
The ultimate form of recovery is sleep. Lack of sleep has many bad ramifications, but for our purposes here, we know that sleep lets your body recover and repair. Studies say sleeping 7–9 hours a night is critical for biochemical balance, raising levels of substances like growth hormone—a primary muscle-repair agent— and reducing inflammatory chemicals like cortisol, IL-6 and TNF-a (Dement 2000; Gonnissen et al. 2012).
Sleep enhances the muscle-building effect of exercise by increasing protein synthesis and helping the nervous system return to a more relaxed, parasympathetic state. Sleep also boosts immune function, which leads to optimal recovery of muscle tissue (Hausswirth & Mujika 2013). There isn’t anyone who won’t tell you that especially in the realm of muscle building exercises, without adequate sleep, it is very hard to accomplish your routine. Sometimes we can get away with our aerobic routine when sleep deprived, but when you try to lift weights or do pushups, it can get difficult.
Another aspect of getting your muscles to recover quickly is nutrition. Improving strength, speed, endurance and power requires an adequate balance of nutrients from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each has a specific role in improving performance, from fueling and recovering from workouts (carbohydrates and fats) to building and rebuilding muscle tissue (proteins).
Consuming more vegetables and fruits and other foods like omega-3 fats that can reduce inflammation is important to exercisers who are altering their internal physiology every day (Gillies 2007). Eating these types of food assists in restoring balance because nutrients that contribute to healing tend to be more alkaline in nature and help bring the body’s natural pH to proper levels (UAB 2013).
One of the techniques I personally use is called active recovery. It can help your body bounce back after strenuous workouts and it makes every workout more efficient. Active recovery comes in two forms. First, it often takes the form of “cooling down” after intensive exercises such as swimming, track-and-field events and vigorous workouts. The primary focus is to keep the heart pumping below maximum, but above resting levels, to help the body process metabolites faster. An active-recovery workout on the day after a challenging workout can enable you to continue your training (and keep contributing to aerobic capacity) without increasing wear and tear on your body.
Active recovery plays a big role during a workout. It is possible to work some muscle groups while resting others. For instance, how much time is wasted in the average gym? Someone picks up a dumbbell or barbell and does 12 repetitions of his or her exercise. Then they wait 90-120 seconds to recover before doing the second set. But active recovery can also mean that you can do a different exercise while the muscles you have been working out are resting. For instance, after using the weights, get on your back and do abdominal exercises for 2-3 minutes and then go back to the weight exercise again, alternate again to the abdominals and then a third set of weights. By exercising using this form of active recovery, you make the best of your time. You can literally accomplish twice as much in your workout time and still let your body recover as needed.
In general, when it comes to aerobics, 24 hours in between your workouts is normally enough to be able to be efficient, although, if your session ends up being lengthy and intense, you may need more than that. For resistance training (muscle building), 48 hours is advisable for the average exerciser. Only someone who has been exercising efficiently and consistently and is in a higher state of fitness can get away with 24 hours. Less than 24 hours is usually not advisable. Don’t over exercise at any point.
Exercising consistently is the best thing for your health, but in order to make the most of your exercise make sure you have recovered enough. Sleep 7-9 hours per night, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, leave 90-120 seconds between sets and leave 24-48 hours between your exercise sessions. Recovering correctly will make your next session more efficient and will “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your lives.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.