Training rest and recovery

Published on June 22nd, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Athletic Science: Resting and Recovery

You’ll read it in every work out plan (including our own): Rest up between sessions and let yourself cool down after your training is done. It is extremely rare to see the meaning behind those words explained. Almost nobody explains in detail what a “good” rest is and what exactly a cool down is supposed to be. Warming up properly can be the difference between a tiny athletic career and a huge one; it can also spell the difference between success and failure. Recovering and resting from your training can be just as significant for your life as an athlete or hobby sportsman.

Leaving your exercise without cooling down can be a serious mistake. When your muscles are warm and tired you are prone to overdo it without realizing you are tired. Your muscles can become shorter and less flexible if you keep on forgetting your recovery after each exercise, not to mention you might end up with a terrible condition known as tendonitis. So what is a good recovery?

The proper recovery after exercise

A good recovery always has to do with the type of exercise you’ve done. So for instance the recovery after sprinting is different from the recovery after yoga. If your exercise is light and you leave your session just as perky as you entered it, you probably do not need to spend a lot of time recovering. There are three main types of recovery:

  • Recovering after very light exercise. When you walk the dog, do a casual jog or do some serene yoga, you probably won’t be very tired or stiff afterwards. You still need to recover from light exercise nonetheless. You need to hydrate, wind down and make sure you don’t feel any pain anywhere.
  • Recovering after medium intensity workouts. Doing an aerobic run or cycling for an hour can get your heart rate up and cause serious stiffness in your muscles if you don’t make sure you recover well from the exercise. After training sessions like dance and martial arts you also need to recover. Usually you spend the last few minutes of your training doing the same exercise as before but slower, this is then called the cool down. Then you stretch your muscles, hydrate yourself and give sore spots a massage. If you get any painful soreness within the next 24 minutes you spend a day resting.
  • Recovery after intense exercise. After extreme sports, sprinting or any other very dynamic activity you need to give yourself a very serious recovery period. You need to spend at least five to ten minutes doing the same movements as before but slower you have to get hydrated soon after the session. If you feel any type of pain you should give your muscles a massage or even an ice bath. Some injuries will only start aching after some hours have passed so you need to be ready to tend to them and rest well. Eating a good meal after training can do a lot in keeping you strong.

As you can see the most important points of recovery are: Cooling down, stretching, hydrating and tending to injuries with massages and ice baths.

The proper rest for your muscles

Fact is that you build muscles when you rest and not when you exercise. You actually injure your muscles when you exercise and build them up stronger when you rest. This simply means that if you go all exercise and no rest you are just ripping your muscles apart and not bulking them up. Every pro and passionate sportsman knows that a good rest is as important as the exercise.

To rest properly you need to let the muscles you injured fix themselves. This is a procedure that last very long and needs at least 24 hours depending on the damage done to your muscles. When you rest you have to avoid using those muscles as much as possible. This means that you can train other muscle groups if your sport is not a whole body one.

For instance, gym goers can exercise arms one day, legs the other and core the third, giving all muscles time to rest at least partially. If your sport is a whole body sport like dancing you are advised to have whole days of rest in between or to focus a lot on good recovery and warm ups.

The worst thing is when people become impatient and push themselves too far or if an athlete has to over-perform due to an event. In such situations you know that you will sacrifice some of your muscle and that you are playing with fire.

Injuries are as common in sports as snow in Canada. You can’t hope you will avoid them by sheer luck. Make sure you are preventing them from happening by recovering your muscle properly and resting in between sessions.

Remember; a rested athlete is a stronger athlete!

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