Find out exactly what happens to your body during a rest day.
When it comes to physical fitness, it’s not so much “go hard or go home” as it is “go hard AND go home.” Recovery time is absolutely vital for anyone who’s serious about their fitness goals, and according to some, it’s going to be the next big thing in health and fitness. Read on to find out more about workout recovery.
Why is workout recovery important?
The importance of rest and recovery can’t be underestimated. We all know this in an abstract sense, of course, but it’s probably only been over the last 10 to 20 years that the significance of recovery has really been explored and studied. After all, for a pretty long period of time, “rest is for the weak”—or something approaching that sentiment—was practically the slogan of your average gym-goer. No longer.
Not only does workout recovery give your muscle tissue the opportunity to repair and strengthen, but it helps you adapt to the stress of exercise, helping you to up your performance. The consequences of not giving your body enough time to recover can be severe. Outside of injuries, there’s also the possibility of developing overtraining syndrome, which can result in a wide range of physiological and physical symptoms.
What is happening to your body on a rest day?
So, rest and recovery are important, but what’s actually happening within your body that makes rest days so effective? In a biological sense, what’s going on? Well, it’s pretty simple. When you exercise, you’re essentially putting a whole load of strain on your body, from your joints to your muscles. This strain causes microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. That’s the reason why you’re so sore the morning after a good workout!
Now, on a rest day, your body is responding to a set of internal responses that contribute to growth and repair. In essence, your body is building itself up in order to compensate for the stress you’ve been applying to it during your workouts. And that’s what makes your muscles grow and enables you to perform better. Because—believe it or not—your muscles aren’t doing very much growing when you’re pumping iron. That happens after, mostly during sleep when your growth hormone (GH) levels are highest.
How can I make the most of my workout recovery time?
Since recovery became a bit of a fitness buzzword, we’ve seen a spate of recovery classes that are designed to help you get the best out of your workouts. The key term is active recovery, which basically refers to an optimized rest day. Rather than spending your day off on the couch, active recovery encourages people to try low-activity workouts and recovery-specific activities, helping your body to recover faster and reduce residual fatigue.
From CVAC—a fitness pod that’s designed to get rid of your body’s metabolic waste and help you recover more quickly from your workouts—to one-to-one stretching sessions, there’s an increasingly wide range of active recovery tools and practices available to try. As Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist and ACE-certified personal trainer, says, “[Recovery is] what sets athletes like Tom Brady apart; it’s not how hard he trains, it’s how hard he recovers.”
Of course, you don’t have to go quite that far in your pursuit of fitness excellence—a good old-fashioned rest day can also be super effective. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, as it’s one of the most important elements of a successful recovery, and drink lots of water. Hydration is an underrated element of rest. It’s not just for during your workouts, but for reducing fatigue and helping you muscles fully recover.
So next time you’re feeling bad about being slumped in front of the TV like a stereotypical couch potato, just remember all the great benefits of resting up. Of course, you’ve got to do all that pesky gym stuff as well!