Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just getting into a workout regimen, muscle and body recovery is an important part of a well-rounded exercise routine. It can be difficult to motivate a highly active person like yourself to rest when you want to push harder, but balancing exercise with rest can make you stronger in the long run and prevent future injury. An article from Rice University explained that a Rest/Recovery Imbalance, known as RRI, can lead to persistent fatigue, injury or illness.
What is a Rest/Recovery Routine?
The Rice University article explains that there are two types of rest—active and passive. Passive rest is what you are doing when you are sleeping or sitting or basically doing nothing. Active rest consists of stretching and light exercise, which increases blood flow to the muscles without straining them. This prevents soreness and stiffness after a heavy workout, according to BodyRecomposition.com.
Recovery is needed after your muscle cells are damaged from a heavy exercise routine. The soreness you feel a day or two after working out is your body repairing the damaged cells, which requires an inflammatory response. With passive and active rest, you are giving your body time to heal itself between workouts. If you don’t allow recovery time, your body will be slightly weaker next time you exercise. It is fine to not be completely healed between routines, but without at least some rest and recovery your body will become fatigued and strained. Including a rest/recovery element in your complete exercise regimen will prevent the issue and stop RRI from becoming a bigger problem.
What Kind of Rest and Recovery Do I Need?
Everyone is different and you should determine a routine that correlates to your workout. That being said, there are essential elements that should be implemented in every athlete’s recovery. An article from Michigan State University explains that there are two types of recovery after exercise, short-term and long-term. Short-term recovery includes cool-down stretching and light exercise immediately after an intense workout. Long-term recovery refers to down time and passive rest.
According to BreakingMuscle.com, your body’s hormonal, neurological and structural systems all need different kinds of recovery. In your structural system (muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, etc.), your muscles will actually heal the fastest because they receive the most blood flow. It’s your bones and ligaments that are more susceptible to overtraining, fatigue and stress.
Your exercise, recovery and healthy diet should be balanced. The Breaking Muscle article explains that, unless you are a very competitive athlete, you should use the “80/20 rule” as a guide. With this rule, 80 percent of your free time (while not at work, school, etc.) can be focused on diet and exercise while 20 percent of your time should be reserved for relaxation and enjoyment. This rule can be customized for your goals. Many people use it for muscle building and weight loss goals, but it also applies to keeping your body healthy and strong while focusing on a serious exercise regimen.
What Can I Do Help My Body Recover?
There are several ways you can help your recovery process. Sleep is one of the most important and effective ways to recover and repair. It not only helps your muscles repair, it can boost your mental health and hormonal balance. Typically, athletes need seven to 10 hours of sleep a day. Going to bed early and sleeping in a dark space with cool, fresh air will give you a more restful night.
Soothing your muscles can help with pain and soreness. Medical News Today states that many athletes use the “cold then hot” method. Cold therapy numbs and relieves pain and reduces swelling. Medical News Today suggests applying cold to effected areas for 20 minutes every four to six hours. Use a cold compress or sit in a bathtub of ice water. You can make your own cold compress by wrapping a bag of ice or frozen vegetables in a towel.
Heat therapy will reduce stiffness and spasms and increase blood flow to effected muscles. You can use a hot towel or heating pad. Sitting in a hot tub or spa, whether at home or at the gym, is another great way to relieve muscles. There are actually stretches and exercises you can do in a hot tub that can help relieve pain from sore muscles or even arthritis. According to Hot Tub Works, the warm water and buoyancy can help the muscles relax and improve motion range for stretching and makes exercising easier. You can do breathing exercises, stretches and range-of-motion exercises while in the hot tub.
This article is from Lauren Brown, a traveling nurse, health blogger, and mom.