Why is recovery after exercise so important?
It is widely viewed that an athlete’s ability to recover from workouts or exercise is just as important as the workout itself. To get the most out of an exercise program, few things are more important than striking the right balance between time spent training and time spent resting.
The ‘sport recovery principle’ is that all athletes need adequate time to recuperate from training and competition. Living at the pace most of us live now can often lead to the principles of recovery being overlooked, with consequences often leading to injury or pain. The most commonly found conditions after exercise are general aches and pains, ankle pain, aching muscles, torn tendons, backache, knee pain and discomfort, shin splints, sore back and shoulders, and repetitive motive injuries such as tendinitis (tennis elbow) and bursitis.
Repetitive motion disorders develop because of microscopic tears in the tissue. When the body is unable to repair the tears in the tissue as fast as they are being made, inflammation occurs, leading to the sensation of pain. We have all been there when our body aches, are so stiff we have trouble walking up or down the stairs, and the cursing of our speed yoga class instructor! Whether an occasional runner or gym fanatic, everyone should consider their recovery regime as an essential part of their daily exercise routine. It is during rest and recovery periods that athletes’ bodies adapt to the stress placed upon them during intense workout sessions and exercise. Nobody likes to be sore and eliminating nagging aches and pains that come from a workout is of significant benefit to anyone exercising, including amateur and professional athletes and anyone on a ‘get fit regime’.
Any improvement in the recovery process takes the athlete to a higher level of fitness. High-level athletes fully understand that the greater the training intensity and effort, the greater the need for planned recovery. Monitoring their workouts with a training log, and paying attention to how their body feels and how motivated they are is extremely helpful in determining their individual recovery needs and modifying their training program accordingly.
Methods to support recovery after exercise
Though muscle aches and pains or soreness is completely natural and cannot be completely eliminated, it can be controlled, and proper recovery protocols will not only ensure minimal levels of post-workout discomfort, but also allow your body to recover more quickly and gain better fitness from the workout.
Soreness in your muscles is actually micro-tears in the muscle fascia (the film surrounding our muscles) and the muscles themselves. The body should go through its natural healing process before putting further stress on these muscles. Recover first, exercise after.
Matt Roberts: Celebrity personal trainers say, “Exercise causes stress on the body (in a good way) and time spent in recovery from that stress allows the body to adapt and grow stronger. If you don’t allow for the right amount of recovery then your body won’t adapt and you won’t get the results you want. When we exercise many of the systems in the body are disrupted to cope with the exertion. During recovery, the body works to bring everything back into balance. If recovery is adequate the body adapts and grows stronger through a concept known as super compensation. This then allows us to train harder and repeat the process.”
There are three key factors in ensuring your body is well balanced to support the natural healing process – the key to an improved recovery process.
Nutrition. Immediately after exercise or a session in the gym, you have a maximum of about one hour to replenish your nutrient levels. If you do not eat, you will not have enough carbohydrate energy for your next workout, you will not have enough protein to repair muscles, and you will not have enough fat for your hormones and joints.
Hydration. Replenishing your water levels is of significant importance. Dehydration can cause cognitive impairment, cardiac stress, inability to reduce core body temperature, unconsciousness, hypothermia and more.
Blood flow. Circulation of blood in and out of a stressed body part improves the speed of recovery. Various techniques that can improve blood flow include cooling down after your workout using topical treatments such as cooling balms, performing light stretching during or after each workout, or using alternative therapeutic devices such as magnetic technology, compression socks and so on.