Often, the entire focus in exercise is on the workout itself. It is easy to forget that the before and after stages are just as, if not more, important. Developing habits of R & R (rest and recovery) is needed to maximize the strength and energy benefits from your routine.
As the saying goes: “It is not how hard you train, but how well you recover”. The body and the mind need time off to restore from training and grow. Knowledge about when rest is needed and the correct ways to recover will take your workout routine to the next level. Fitness then becomes a part of your everyday lifestyle rather than only during intervals you are physically training.
How you choose to spend your rest day is custom to your personal needs. Here are some suggestions to help with finding what approach works best for you!
Taking Time Off
Knowing when to stop and take a break from exercising is important no matter what level you are at.
When you work yourself too hard, you are likely to fall into a catabolic state, meaning body tissue is breaking down. If you push your body too hard, it gets stuck in this state for too long, which causes decrease in performance and strength. There are other drawbacks to being stuck in this state: sleeping problems, severe muscle soreness, suppressed immune system, and being more prone to injury. Because the mind also needs time to heal, mood swings are also likely.
Tips for Scheduling Rest
- Do two days on, one day off as a beginner
- If more advanced, take one day off a week
- Every couple of months, dedicate a week to decreasing your workout load and increasing stretching time
Rest Day Vs. “Active” Recovery Day
Type of R & R day is dependent on your workout.
Working out causes microscopic tears in muscle tissue. Strength is gained through the body repairing this damage, by adapting muscles to prepare for the strains of working out again in the future.
A full rest day is still beneficial if you are feeling extremely fatigued.
Doing some light “active” recovery will give your body the opportunity to stretch out, warm up, and be in optimal shape for movement. Your body needs stimulation every day to relieve the past workouts stress and help you to perform better in the future.
Examples of “Active” Recovery
Recovery = Refuel (Complex Carbohydrates) + Repair (Protein) + Rehydrate (Water and Electrolytes)
We know that eating foods that aid tissue-rebuilding is key before working out. After, your body has time to break down complex carbohydrates, which help refuel energy stores. Healthy protein is also needed to repair and restore muscle. It is also important to rehydrate with both water and electrolytes, as sodium and potassium are lost in our sweat.
It is ideal to fuel your body with protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout to keep energy stores up.
However, studies show that your body is rebuilding muscle for up to 24 hours after a workout, meaning it continues into R & R time. So, even on your day off, it is still essential to eat those colorful and healthy foods, and to keep hydrating!
It is easy to overdo it after a workout, sometimes to the point of consuming more calories than you burned. Avoid sugary energy drinks, bars, and fruit smoothies and instead go for a light post-workout snack around 150 calories, or a balanced meal under 500.
Examples of Post-Workout Nutrition
- Brown rice
- Ezekiel bread
- Chocolate milk
- Almond butter
- Hard boiled eggs
- Protein-rich green smoothie
Managing Hormonal Responses
If you do not give your body the time it needs to repair itself and grow, certain systems will shut down from being overworked. Through resting, your sympathetic nervous system ‘fight-or-flight’ response that is activated during physical activity is decreased, and the parasympathetic, or calming, nervous system is stimulated instead. This allows for cortisol stress hormone levels to lower, muscles to rebuild, and carbohydrate stores to be replenished.
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep is crucial. It is the main time in that the body and mind can heal and repair.
You deserve for your body and mind hit top performance, and these tips can help get you there!
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