No matter what type of strength program or exercise routine you are involved in, getting adequate rest and recovery should be a part of that plan for both physical and psychological reasons. Rest and recovery allow the body the time it needs in order to repair and strengthen itself between workouts. Fatigue hinders skill development. Pushing the limit when your body isn’t at its best can cause you to overtrain. Overtraining can occur as a result of not allowing your body to adapt to the changes caused by the stress of exercise. It can cause an individual to feel tired and depressed, have decreased sports performance, or an increased risk of injury. Ultimately, it can actually weaken even the strongest athlete.
Of course, there are recommendations for the amount of time you should rest between working certain muscle groups or the amount of recovery you need from running longer distances, but it is important to realize that everyone adapts to exercise differently. As a general rule, the higher intensity of your workout, the more rest you should allow. Same goes for rest intervals among and between exercises and drills.
Here are some tips for incorporating rest and recovery techniques into your training plan to avoid fatigue, overtraining, or injury:
Incorporate Active Recovery. Rather than overdoing it, incorporate active recovery days into your workout plan. If you are a heavy lifter, have a day of training that incorporates body-weight exercises only. If you are a runner, have a day where you lower the intensity of your run, or cross-train. Swim laps, get on the elliptical or bike, go for a walk, keep your muscles working to allow your body to flush out the lactic acid build-up from intense exercise.
Get Plenty of Sleep. When your body is at rest, you are able to recover more quickly. You will not be able to perform your next day of exercise at your best if you are tired. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
Avoid Lifting Heavy on High Stress Days. When you are having a stressful day, avoid squatting or deadlifting to avoid back injury. Exercise can help with the release of stress, but overtraining (intensity, duration, frequency) can actually exacerbate stress. In order to perform your best, you have to feel your best. Don’t risk it.
Take a Day Off. For some, this isn’t even in your vocabulary (but it should be). Everyone needs it, even the elite athletes. A day off not only allows your body to recovery physically, but mentally as well. A lot of what we do during exercise is “mind over matter.” We push ourselves to do one more rep, run one more sprint, or run one more mile. Give yourself a day off. It will not make or break you, and it may just help your next workout be the best yet.
Written by: Megan Osysko