It may come as a surprise, but the recovery period after exercise is just as important as the workout itself, and providing adequate rest is an essential part of the results process. Physical activity, especially resistance training, places the body under stress and creates microscopic tears in the muscles which heal to create increased strength and tone, and it is this essential resting phase that allows the body the time to do this efficiently. Much like your body needs time to recover from an illness, anything that physically drains the body of its energy and creates physical stress will require a resting period to allow for repair before being placed under this stress again.
What Is A Rest Day?
A complete rest day is a day spent abstaining from physical activity and is usually taken to allow the body to recover from exercise. For someone who is used to exercising often, this sedentary period may be tough to endure, and often resting completely can cause one to feel lazy.
What Is Active Recovery?
Active recovery is a resting period from strenuous exercise, however, it is not a rest period from movement altogether. When we exercise, we often experience acute muscle soreness either during or immediately after a workout and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs) which can occur 24-72 hours post workout and both are a result of exercise-induced muscle trauma. Improving blood flow your muscles can assist in the healing process and undertaking an active recovery period can be very helpful in this recovery phase.
Performing light cardiovascular exercise can help to improve the rate of recovery by promoting blood flow which helps to increase flexibility and assists in repairing the muscles.
- Swimming- A low impact form of exercise that will help to move and soothe the muscles.
- Cycling- A great way to get the legs moving and increase the blood flow to the muscles.
- Brisk Walking- A simple form of light exercise that can easily be incorporated into your day.
Yoga is a wonderful way to improve flexibility, improve muscle control and promote relaxation. Yoga poses and stretches can assist in muscle repair, improve blood flow and reduce muscle soreness and by incorporating such routines into your recovery, you can actively compliment your existing training schedule.
Corrective ExerciseRegular physical activity in the form of weight training or cardio, places the body under constant stress while tightening the muscles. If the body is misaligned, the muscles aren’t able to work evenly and efficiently and this causes muscle imbalances that are detrimental to your posture, and can ultimately cause injury. Exercising while in this state reinforces this negative posture and worsens the existing muscle imbalances. Taking the opportunity to perform corrective exercises will improve your long-term results and help you to exercise injury and pain-free.
Below are three corrective exercises that assist in rebalancing the posture, and would be useful to perform on active recovery days:
- Glute Raise: An awesome exercise to build the muscles of the glutes, strengthen the lower back and improve both muscle balance and hip alignment.
- Wall Angels- A great exercise to improve the posture, stretch the chest and open out the shoulders.
- Bird/Dog- An excellent, controlled exercise that assists in the strengthening of the core and glutes.
It may sound obvious, but if your muscles are tight, then you need to stretch. Take the time to hold and relax into each position and be careful not to overstretch, as this can irritate the muscles and cause a reflex that may increase tightness. For best results, warm up with some light cardio beforehand.
Self Myofascial Release
The foam roller is a highly useful piece of active recovery kit, and it can provide massive physical benefit when used regularly. The foam roller acts as a massage tool, designed to break down tight muscle tissue, release knots and promote flexibility. The foam roller is great to use pre-workout for a warm-up, post workout during stretching and on active recovery days to increase blood flow and promote healing of the muscles. For smaller, hard to reach areas or for muscles that require more pressure, a trigger point ball can be used in place of the roller. For best results, warm up with some light cardio beforehand.
Active Recovery Nutrition
Rest day nutrition is an important aspect of the physical recovery process, and by ensuring that well balanced nutritious meals are consumed on these days, you’ll load the body up with useful nutrients and adequate quality calories to assist in both performance and recovery. Use this time to hydrate too, water makes up 60% of the human body, is present in all cells, and is essential to our survival. By restoring nutrients with natural whole foods, and replenishing water with fluids, you are automatically rebalancing the electrolytes that are lost through sweat and helping the body to maintain internal homeostasis, which is vital for peak-performance.
The Importance Of Avoiding Overtraining
When we exercise, the body utilises glucose for energy and if it runs out of fuel, it reaches a catabolic state and begins to break down muscle tissue. This catabolic state is detrimental to the body and creates a highly stressful environment. Overtraining, whether it be training for too long or too often without adequate rest, will have a negative impact on one’s performance and results. Training progress can be hindered if adequate rest is not provided to allow for essential muscle recovery.
Overtraining is highly dependent on the individual, the type of activity being undertaken and their fitness level. For example, overtraining for you and I may not mean the same thing to an athlete who trains for several hours per day with little rest. As you grow fitter and stronger, your exercise and rest requirements will change, so it is important that you listen to your body and how you feel to determine when rest days are needed.
Use your rest day wisely and don't forget to ice any injured areas you are managing. Head to BodyICE Recovery for the full range of join specific ice and heat packs.