Are you training for a race or a run or exercising for health benefits? Did you know that recovery from training is actually more important than the training itself, as repair and rebuilding of damaged muscle tissue can occur only during a recovery period?
Charlie Hoolihan, director of personal training for the Pelican Athletic Club in Mandeville, Louisiana, talks below about two crucial steps for recovery:
- adhering to the healthful-lifestyle behaviors of proper sleep and nutrition
- establishing a flexible, well-thought-out training plan that includes significant recovery workouts and workout cycles
Sleep: The Ultimate Recovery
Sleep lets your body recover and repair. Studies say sleeping 7–9 hours a night is critical for biochemical balance, raising levels of substances like growth hormone—a primary muscle-repair agent— and reducing inflammatory chemicals like cortisol, IL-6 and TNF-a (Dement 2000; Gonnissen et al. 2012).
Sleep enhances the muscle-building effect of exercise by increasing protein synthesis and helping the nervous system return to a more relaxed, parasympathetic state. Sleep also boosts immune function, which leads to optimal recovery of muscle tissue (Hausswirth & Mujika 2013).
Nutrition: Fueling Recovery
Improving strength, speed, endurance and power requires an adequate balance of nutrients from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each has a specific role in improving performance, from fueling and recovering from workouts (carbohydrates and fats) to building and rebuilding muscle tissue (proteins).
Consuming more vegetables and fruits and other foods like omega-3 fats that can reduce inflammation is important to exercisers who are altering their internal physiology every day (Gillies 2007). Eating these types of food assists in restoring balance because nutrients that contribute to healing tend to be more alkaline in nature and help bring the body’s natural pH to proper levels (UAB 2013).
Active recovery can also help your body bounce back after strenuous workouts. Active recovery often takes the form of “cooling down” after intensive exercises such as swimming, track-and-field events and vigorous workouts. The primary focus is to keep the heart pumping below maximum, but above resting levels, to help the body process metabolites faster.
An active-recovery workout on the day after a challenging workout can enable you to continue your training (and keep contributing to aerobic capacity) without increasing wear and tear on your body. For help in determining effective active-recovery workouts, work with a certified personal trainer.