The Importance of Recovery After Exercise

Written by R. S Jacobs

recovery-imageEvery morning, I wake up with one thing on my mind – exercise! It’s my number one priority to make sure I kick-start my body. The body is a machine and like any machine, it requires constant maintenance. In the same way that machines need to be oiled and serviced on a regular basis to ensure it operates smoothly, our body deserves the same attention. At the start of my fitness journey, I worked out vigorously, 7 days a week, at least twice a day, for hours on end, with only a few hours break in-between. By the end of each day, I literally felt like I had been run over by a train, I like to push myself to the max, so I always tell myself “No Pain, No Gain”, and resigned myself to the fact that I would always be in a constant state of pain.

To many people reading this, it might come as no surprise that I didn’t achieve what I expected to, purely based on the fact that I was over-exerting myself without allowing my body the proper recovery time it needed. Proper recovery allows the body to strengthen itself after each workout session. Getting the appropriate rest time is crucial to ensure you achieve the results you desire from your workout and these results are often the key to staying motivated. Every time we exercise, our body experiences some level of micro-stress, whilst this is actually good for you, it also means you need time to repair, recuperate and get stronger. This process is essential for the replacement of nutrients lost through sweat, restoring glycogen levels and developing muscle proteins necessary for growth and endurance.

Your body is just like an engine when you workout, slowly heating up until you are running at top capacity. And like every engine, it also needs time to cool down, be fine-tuned and properly maintained to prevent excessive wear and tear. The amazing thing about the body is, it has the miraculous ability to self-repair. Generally speaking, muscles tend to recover quite quickly. However, your bones, tendons and ligaments take longer to repair. No matter how strong you think you are, there are limits to how much stress your body can take before it starts to break down and that often leaves you at risk of injury. Too much exercise can leave you vulnerable to significant long-term injuries and even serious muscle damage, whilst on the flip side, too little exercise also leads to long term overall health problems. As I keep saying time and time again, everything needs to be done in moderation, find a happy medium that works for you.

Muscle damage is one of the main reasons why it is essential to ensure you start and end your workouts with some warm up and cool down stretches. Why not try some light yoga, which is full of gentle stretching that increases the flow of blood to every part of the body. Also make sure you drink plenty of water as this helps the body to stay hydrated, which is crucial to support the recovery process. Another great tip is to exercise different muscle groups on different days of the week and apply a “one day on – one day off” or a “5 days on – two days off” approach, as this will encourage you to have a recovery routine that you can stick to.

In addition, eating the right nutrition around your exercise routine. This is essential to provide your body with the correct macros according to your activity level. Food plays a huge factor in rejuvenation and helps the body get equipped for the next workout. And something that many people overlook is how critical sleep is to your recovery process. You must aim to sleep at least 8 hours a day to give your body a fighting chance of recuperating. Sleep deprivation makes the body release cortisol, a stress hormone that directly slows the release of natural growth hormone which is imperative for reconstruction after your workouts.

Amazing reasons why you should introduce a good recovery routine as part of your workout plan.

* Prevent Injuries. Everyone knows that you can’t give your absolute best when you are fatigued. When you are exhausted you are more likely to get injured. Most injuries like back, arm and neck pain are caused due to the lack of recovery time when exercising. We break down the body when involved in physical activity and a continuous break down obviously causes more injuries than results.

* Increases Performance. With a well-recovered body, you will feel empowered to tackle any physical activity. This is why professional athletes master the art of recovery to make their body stronger before they workout. The more recovery time you have, the stronger your muscles and bones will be and in turn, you will reap the benefits tenfold.

* Fat Loss. After you exercise, fat reduction process occurs as body digs deeps into the fat stores to use it as energy for repairing the body. This is particularly true for those who do strength training because the muscles specifically use calories from stored fat to rejuvenate, and more muscles equal more calorie burn…win win!

* Mental Strength. Your body and mind are like two peas in a pod; they are like Siamese twins. When the body is stressed, the mind is stressed. So, when you are well rested physically after a workout, your mind also recovers and this gives you a mental edge by inspiring you to perform better in your next workout session.

* Immune System. Over-training puts a serious strain on your immune system. When you burn out as a result of too much physical activity, your immune system starts to run down which often results in getting sick. However, with good recovery structure, your immune system will get stronger and you will be in tip-top shape.

* Better Sleep. If you exercise and you are unable to sleep, there is a strong indicator that you are not recovering well. One of the great benefits of exercise and good recovery is the ability to fall asleep quicker and sleep longer. When your body is repairing, it induces a chemical called melatonin which makes you sleep. With this process, you will get deep uninterrupted sleep, creating ample time for your body to carry out the essential repair work.

* More Gains. Recovery time is when your muscles, bones, tissues, and skin truly reaps the benefit of exercise. As natural growth hormones are released during rest/sleep period, it stimulates the process of strengthening and regenerating your muscles. This is the key to achieving that toned, sculpted physique that you desire.

Recovery is as important as the actual workout if you want to achieve long-term results on your health and fitness journey. Get your nutrition in check, make sure you incorporate regular stretching as part of your warm up/cool down routine, aim for an average of 8 hours sleep every night, and always strive towards making sure you are well rested between your workouts. Do not run yourself into the ground with the false logic that the more you exercise, the better your results will be! This may help you achieve short-term results, but at what cost? If your body is riddled with aches, pains and injuries, your short term results will quickly fade and not only will you be back to square one, you might actually fall even further behind! Remember, just enough is plenty! Train smart and recover well to make sure you are energised for every workout!

Stay strong, warriors.

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