Why is Recovery Important?
By Jennifer Smirl CPT
Recovery and rest are critical components of any successful training program. They are also a very underutilized way to enhance performance. Most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance, but many still over train and feel guilty when they take a day off. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous training can weaken even the strongest athletes. For recreational athletes, building in rest days can help maintain a better balance between home life, work and fitness goals. Check out these great options for recovery and rest:
Foam rollers are one of the most effective (and inexpensive) self-myofascial release tools at your disposal for recovery and injury prevention. Myofascial release is also useful for improving mobility and flexibility. The more mobility and flexibility you gain, the greater your abilities will become in your workouts. Don’t have space for a foam roller or want something for traveling? Tennis, racket and lacrosse balls are great tools as well!
Just like we mentioned above with foam rolling, stretching and gaining flexibility to move well and remain pain free is vital to having successful workouts. Taking a yoga class is a great recovery day workout. Stretching is recommended following all workouts but spending a little extra time fully stretching in a class setting can be rejuvenating to the mind as well as the body.
Sometimes our bodies need a little more help in the recovery process. That’s where ice, heat, and compression enter into the picture. For areas of swelling or tenderness, ice is best. These are injuries that have happened in the last 48hrs like a sprained ankle, or recently aggravated shin splints. Heat is best for chronic or long-term injuries such as muscles strains or tight muscles. Applying heat can help loosen tissues by increasing circulation and relax injured areas. Try to apply heat before you stretch or roll, as it will aid in your goals to stretch instead of strain. Compression socks for runners have recently become a ‘thing’. There is little proof that wearing compression socks improves performance and there’s no reason to wear then while exercising, unless you like the way they feel. Wearing them may reduce swelling so they could be good as a recovery tool, post workout. If you do wear compression socks, avoid ones with high compression or those going above the knee.
When we sleep, we allow our bodies to heal/grow our muscles and to reset mentally. Lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and decrease our aerobic endurance for future workouts. I hear people bragging that they don’t ‘need’ much sleep. That may be true, but why operate in a state of sleep deprivation simply because you can? Sleeping 8-10 hours is what is recommended. Human growth hormone is also released under conditions of sleep. Human growth hormone secretion occurs during early sleep which is typically when the deepest sleep cycles occur. Poor quality sleep can negatively impact human growth hormone levels and that, in turn, affects the ability to grow and repair muscles.
So, build some rest and recovery into your workout routines. Listen to your body; fatigue is a signal that you need some rest, Netflix and chill!