Some argue getting started with exercise or endurance training is the hardest part of the process. Many times exercise becomes addictive and people wish to see rapid improvement so they continue to work out even when tired, sick or injured. It’s been my experience that taking time to properly recover from exercise can be the biggest challenge of all.
Recovery may be the most important part of any exercise program, ye the hardest to do and often most overlooked. Many athletes get in the mindset that more training is better and completely ignore rest and recovery. They work their bodies to exhaustion, barely let the work take effect and then repeat. Why is rest and recovery important? When exercising, you are placing an increased workload on your body. For example when you increase your running distance or lift weights, this stress tears your muscle fibers down and fatigues your system.
To realize the positive effect of your exercise, your body needs time to recover and rebuild the small muscle tears so you can return stronger and ready for more exercise. Growth actually comes from recovery, not the exercise itself so if you don’t give your body time to adequately recover; you are diminishing the very growth and improvement you are seeking.
There are many different ways to recover. Active recovery is an excellent way to experience some effects of recovery while still exercising. This can be in the form of an easy jog or walk between intervals or a prolonged cool down. I use active recovery as part of my running. When I run, I will take one or two days a week and push my pace close to race pace or for me 7:45 per mile. The following day I will take an easy run at a 9:00 or 10:00 minute per mile pace as a means of recovery. I am still getting exercise but lessening the stress on my body.
Sleep is another excellent form of recovery. Professional Triathlete Andy Potts gets eleven hours of sleep per night, stressing the power of its restorative effects. I strive for a combination of eight hours of sleep a day. Naps are great ways to fit in a little extra sleep. Sleep is critical is critically important as this is the only time the body produces natural human growth hormone that is responsible for muscle repair and growth.
Self-massage is yet another form of recovery. I have a love-hate relationship with my foam roller. After a tough workout I use my foam roller to work out sore spots. It can be uncomfortable at the time but well worth the benefit.
One of the most overlooked recovery agents is proper nutrition. You want to consume some complex carbohydrates and good protein within 30 minutes post workout, especially if you are working out daily.
For more information on reovery and renewal, Sage Rountree has is a leading expert. She is an internationally recognized authority in yoga for athletes and an endurance sports coach specializing in athletic recovery. Her classes, training plans, videos, books, and articles make yoga and endurance exercise accessible to everyone.
Here is to being fit for a lifetime!