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Recovery: Do I Really Need It?

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Women's Legs Standing on Pavement after a Run

“Recovery, as in rest? I don’t have time for that! I have 50 pounds to lose by Christmas!” In my 29 lovely years on this earth, I cannot begin tell you how many times I have heard this type of statement. Seeing results isn’t about quantity; it is about quality! Recovery is the key! You will only reap the benefits of training if you allow your body adequate amounts of time to rest and recover. Otherwise, if you neglect taking time for a little R&R, you will find yourself frustrated and lacking energy, all while trying to figure out why you have not made any progress. Sounds like a bunch of wasted time and energy to me, but to give it a name, we will call it overtraining.

In a nutshell, overtraining is when we run our bodies into the ground thinking we are helping ourselves. As a matter of fact, it is doing the complete opposite and would sound something like this: “I’ve got to go to the gym, and then I’m going to go run before dinner. And after dinner, I’m going to go for a hike, and then I’ll probably have issues going to sleep. Then after I get no sleep, I’m going to get up and do the same thing all over again!” More is not always better, and the more we train, the more we must recover! If we continue to put more emphasis on training and ignore our body’s warning signals to stop and smell the roses, we might as well kiss our results goodbye.

Signs/Symptoms of Overtraining
  • Extreme fatigue and restless
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased performance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic or nagging injuries
  • Increased RPE (rate of perceived exertion) during workouts
  • Metabolic imbalances
  • Increased agitation or moodiness
  • Psychological stress and/or depression
  • Decreased immunity

Sounds fun right? Not! Luckily, there are a couple forms of recovery that you can implement into your training schedule in order to combat or prevent such occurrences. These recovery approaches are known as active recovery, which involves some movement, and passive recovery, or rest. You may naturally choose one over the other; however, utilizing a good balance of both forms of recovery will allow you to optimize your performance in the best of ways.

Examples of Active Recovery
  • Soft tissue/mobility work
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Yoga

In short, active recovery is anything that gets you moving and is light in intensity. Therefore, it should not be strenuous in nature or put extra stress on your recovering body.

Benefits
  • Facilitates tissue repair by circulating blood and oxygen to recovering muscles and joints
  • Decreases onset of muscle soreness
  • Helps to shuttle metabolic waste products out of muscle tissue
  • Satisfies the need to move, without compromising central nervous system function and muscle tissue repair
Examples of Passive Recovery (Rest)
  • Getting adequate amounts of quality sleep
  • Spending time with your family and enjoying your downtime
  • Meditation-practice being present to allow your mind to relax
Benefits
  • Relaxes the mind and body, and promotes optimal relaxation of the central nervous system
  • Maintains appropriate hormonal balance needed for progress
  • Prepares your body for maximum effort during your training sessions

 

All things considered, life is about balance. Training is only one part of the health and fitness equation. Give your muscles AND your nervous system time to adapt and recover from the physical stress that results from exercise. Your mind and body will thank you, and you will see the quality of your training sessions– and your well being– improve!