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The importance of recovery

One of the most important elements of performance and exercise is rest, and it’s also something we don’t seem to be very good at!

A common issue that I see with clients, especially new ones, is that they don’t book themselves a massage until they’re so sore they can barely move. Then they walk into my clinic and say;

“Please fix it”

“I’m so broken”

“My entire body hurts”

Does any of that sound familiar?

I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but when your muscles are that sore all the skill in world can’t get you back feeling 100% after one treatment.

Recovery, or R&R, isn’t just something high level athletes have to factor in, as it is arguably just as important a factor in performance as the training itself.

Resting allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts. Training only gives the body a stimulus to adapt and get stronger, it is during recovery that those physiological changes are made in order to actually become fitter and stronger. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re just a regular gym-goer or a recreational or competitive athlete, it needs to have a place in your training programme!

Recovery ahead image
Recovery ahead

There are two different types of recovery:

  1. Short-term recovery - This occurs within hours after a session or event, and includes low intensity movements after working out and during the cool down phase.

  2. Long-term recovery – Recovery periods that are worked into a programme over the course of months or a year, and may include days off or weeks of reduced load.

What are the benefits of having a recovery period?

- The body is allowed to adapt to the stress to become more efficient

- Energy stores are replenished in the form of muscle glycogen

- Provides time for the muscles to repair

- Prevent overtraining

- Reduced risk of injury

- Relaxation time for the mind and body

How much recovery is enough?

Judging the amount of recovery needed after each block of training can be a very personal thing. You know your body and how you feel the best, so the amount of recovery you need will vary for the amount of training you are doing.

Too little recovery and you will plateau and not see or feel any improvement, while having too much will leave you short of your potential and goals.

There are many factors to consider in terms of fitness level and training intensity, but if you’re doing high intensity strength training or cardio 5-6x per week, try a recovery day every three or four days with a recovery week every three of four weeks.

Another thing to consider, if you are struggling to find the motivation for the first or second training session of a three or four-day block, that may be your body telling you to increase the amount of recovery time.

Sleep is another important aspect of rest and recovery when it comes to performance. Sleep deprivation decreases aerobic endurance and affects hormone levels, which can lead to higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) being present and a decrease in human growth hormone (HGH), which is active during tissue repair.

Recovery Tools

Sleep: Having a good sleeping pattern/routine will mean that your mind and body are getting a consistent amount of down time each day. Without enough sleep your body cannot adapt, it is your biggest recovery tool so make the most of it.

Hydration and Nutrition: A vital aspect of both training and recovery is being well hydrated. Water and salts are lost through sweating which means they need to be replaced and a larger water intake is needed than when at rest. A good electrolyte is also strongly recommended to replace the lost minerals, which can also help prevent muscle cramps.

Nutrition and giving your body the correct type and amount of fuel is an equally important factor. Food restores the body’s energy supply and healthy choices will enhance your performance and recovery.

Massage: Getting a massage can improve recovery time and keep the muscles flexible. Circulation is increased to the area bringing fresh, healing blood, and waste products are flushed from the tired muscles to be expelled by the lymphatic system.

Cryotherapy: Also known as cold therapy. The application of ice to an area causes the blood vessels to constrict, upon sensing cold blood is rerouted away from the area to keep the vital organs warm. When the ice is removed the vessels open up and allow freshly oxygenated blood back into the muscle, bringing with it more nutrients to help you recover.

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