How important is post-exercise recovery?
Whether you are a recreational athlete, professional sportsperson, fitness enthusiast or gym junkie, you may find yourself placing a great deal of emphasis towards training or performance variables. For instance, the type and frequency of training that you are doing, or how long you are doing it for, or what intensity you are aiming to achieve for that given load.
However, it is essential to remember that the most important aspect of training isn’t necessarily what is happening on the field – it’s what you do when you get home that is just important, and can also reap more positive fitness outcomes.
More specifically, it is how you recover which also matters.
Why is recovery important?
When we exercise, the muscle glycogen (energy) stores which provide our muscles with the fuel it needs to perform begin to deplete. Additionally, the muscle tissue breaks down in response to the physical stress placed on the body during exercise. Therefore, a sufficient recovery time post-exercise allows these energy store to replenish, and it allows the muscle tissue the opportunity to repair, rebuild and strengthen following a work load. Hence, it prepares the body for a much better performance during the next training load, as well as reduces the potential for injury or overtraining.
Continually, physical activity – especially during intense or frequent training periods, loads stress on the body. Therefore, and by principal of progressive overload, it is fundamental to let our bodies rest and recover. This will ultimately absorb the stress and allow physical adaptations to occur, so that our body can become more efficient during the next training phase.
Tips for effective recovery
1. Active recovery
Active recovery involves a period of low-intensity physical activity, that encourages increased blood flow to the muscles which promotes venous return. This is necessary to remove the waste products which can accumulate during exercise e.g. lactic acid. Active recovery can be achieved through activities such as swimming, jogging, walking or cycling.
Sleep is an important aspect of recovery. During the sleep cycle, our body increases the activity of the human growth hormone, which is critical for muscle tissue repair. It also improves glycogen synthesis which is necessary for refuelling muscles energy stores, as well as modulate levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lead to improved performance.
3. Nutrition and Hydration
As part of an effective recovery, it is also essential to consider what we put into our body. To improve recovery, it helps to hydrate with adequate amounts of water and consume nutrient dense foods post-exercise. This can assist in refuelling the body’s energy stores and replace fluid loss, which can reduce the instance of fatigue and improve recovery.
Within a given exercise week, it is important to give your body the opportunity for a full rest day for the reasons discussed above.
For more tailored advice on recovery, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today!