Do you leave workouts feeling exhausted and ‘crushed’? Are you constantly sore? Lacking energy during a workout after a few intense days in a row? Is it time for you to do less?
Knowing you can give yourself that permission will let you push yourself in your workout routine (whether it’s weights or chopping wood) once in a while, and that’s something worth doing. Rest assured that taking a day off isn’t going to set you back when you’re taking care of yourself across the board.
However, even if you are taking rest days and “listening to your body,” you may be sabotaging your recovery without realizing it. Here are a couple major factors that play in to your recovery:
Exercise is a potent stressor, and that’s why it works so well: by encountering and overcoming the stress of a heavy squat, or a sprint uphill, or an intense hike, our fitness improves to make the next encounter a little easier. Unfortunately, dealing with any kind of stress diverts valuable manpower away from workout recovery.
Did you know that “mental stress” can impair workout recovery?
31 undergrads were assessed for stress levels using a battery of psychological tests, then engaged in a heavy lower body strength workout. At an hour post workout, students in the high stress group had regained 38 percent of their leg strength, while students in the low stress group had regained 60 percent of their strength back.
An earlier study showed that tissue healing – which our muscles must do in order to recover – is impaired during times of stress. Students received puncture wounds to their mouths, and half went on vacation and the other half had exams. On average, the exam group took three days longer for their wounds to heal. You aren’t healing puncture wounds (usually) after training, but the muscle recovery process is similar and places similar demands on the body.
Sometimes, people get the funny notion that the benefits of exercise happen as you exercise – in real time. You know, you do 50 situps and immediately expect a 6 pack to appear?
These people often assume that more is always better, and that a surefire way to get lean and fit is to cram as much exercise into your schedule as humanly possible, because it’ll only make you fitter. These are the people you see spending hours at the gym every day on the same machines, using the same weights, looking and performing the same, year after year.
Well, they’re wrong.
Fitness accrues after workouts and during recovery. You don’t get stronger, faster, and fitter working out. You get stronger, fitter, and faster recovering from working out. And don’t be misled by those incredibly fit and strong folks who seem to train all day, every day. They’re not fit because they train that way. They train that way because they’re fit enough to do it. (They also have their nutrition dialed in)
As a general rule, the harder the workout, the longer the recovery period required.
...more to come.