As an avid Men’s Fitness reader, we know we don’t have to tell you to get your ass in the gym, but we might have to tell you that spending hours lifting day-in- and-day-out will stall your progress. Rest and recovery are essential components to any strength and conditioning program and most coaches and trainers would argue it’s just as or more important than the lifting itself. Recovery must occur before progress can be made. It’s important for staying injury free, long-term consistent training, and maxing out from time to time.
Here are 6 tips for all you workout-aholics:
1) Schedule “down” weeks and recovery workouts.
The recovery process needs to be proactive, planned and effectively executed. It’s important to remember that you break your body down when you train (weights or cardio) – your energy stores are depleted, your muscles and other tissues are broken down and your body is in a fatigued state.
A lack of proper recovery can lead to overtraining otherwise known as under-recovery or over-reaching. Exhaustion can ensue if the training stimulus is too high or too frequent – so maxing on your bench every week is a big no-no! Worse yet, Overtraining Syndrome can develop if fatigue is not addressed, which can lead to a host of physiological and chemical changes. To put it simply, building fatigue upon fatigue results in the inability to adequately adapt, resulting in more fatigue, inflammation, missed lifts and shitty workouts.
Our Advice: Every 3-5 weeks, plan a recovery week. For all your main lifts, perform half the number of reps with sub-maximal loads. Perform less volume with your assistance lifts and leave the gym feeling refreshed and energized.
2) Schedule ample recovery time between workouts
Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short is a common sensation felt after weight lifting. Most trainees actually base the success or effectiveness of their training sessions on how sore they get; however, this is incorrect. Typically, DOMS is characterized by muscle tenderness, stiffness, and reduced joint range of motion, muscle flexibility and force production. Compensating for muscle fiber damage and returning to the gym prematurely will increase your risk for injury potentially sending you in for physiotherapy.
Our Advice: Ensure you have 24-72 hours rest between intense training sessions involving the same musculature. Less rest is needed between sub-maximal training sessions.
3) Get some sleep.
It has been shown that lack of adequate sleep can decrease the reduce tolerance to training, alter mood, increase perception of fatigue and negatively affect the physiological mechanisms responsible for adaptation from the stresses of training. Hormonal secretion during sleep is one of the most important factors influencing recovery; after all, the purpose of sleep is to induce a state of recovery in the body. Anabolic (muscle-building) hormone concentrations and activity increase during sleep while catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormone concentrations and activity decrease. Disrupted or shortened sleep will negatively influence the effects of these anabolic hormones.
Our Advice: Try to develop a regular sleeping routine where you go to bed at a similar time each night of the week. Remove distractions such as, light, smart phones and television watching. If possible, try for 8 hours per night and/or fit in an afternoon power nap for 30 minutes to rejuvenate the body.
Dehydration can reduce performance potential, but also delay the recovery process. Exercise and an increased metabolic rate both increase the body’s need for water and electrolytes. It has been suggested that the minimum amount of fluid intake per day for males is 3.7L/day and 2.7L/day for females.
Our Advice: Get your minimum dose! No excuses. And be mindful of water lost from sweating; one source recommended roughly 1 L of water for every 1000 calories expended.
5) Get your nutrients.
Recovery is a time where proper nutrition is essential. Protein sources are required to rebuild muscle tissue and to supply the building blocks for various cells, tissues, enzymes, and hormones. Depending on how often you train during the week, protein recommendations can range from 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Carbohydrates, on the hand, are muscles major source of energy; therefore, eating carbohydrates is essential at refueling your body’s glycogen stores. Your body refuels glycogen at a higher rate within 3.0 to 60 minutes post workout so it’s important to consume a post workout snack or shake during this time. It has also been shown that including a small amount of protein in this snack speeds up the rebuilding and recovery process.
Our Advice: Eat a post workout snack that contain roughly 50 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein. A well-balanced meal should be consumed roughly 2 hours post workout to continue the recovery process.
6) Massage it out.
Massage from a therapist or self-massage AKA self myofascial release (SMR) with foam rollers, massage sticks and even baseballs can reduce muscle stiffness, promote circulation and induce a state of relaxation in the muscle, although research has been equivocal. It might be painful during, but SMR can be performed the night of a hard workout to remove scar tissue, adhesions in the muscle and restrictions in the fascia (a type of connective tissue that wraps around the whole body).
Our Advice: Gently roll a baseball or massage stick over all major muscle groups until you find a sensitive spot. Apply direct pressure until the pain dissipates. Roll over the muscle again and repeat if necessary. Even if massage doesn’t speed up recovery, it might make you feel better compared to not getting massaged in the first place.