Q&A With Brian
Hi Brian, I work out twice a week with a personal trainer and also do 4-5 gym sessions a week. Should I give myself a rest day? Thanks, Chloe - Cloverdale (WA)
Rest and recovery is as important to the success of an exercise regime as is the actual work done with a PT or gym session. What you do after exercise has a massive influence on whether your session will improve your fitness or not. Unfortunately, most people either don't understand or have never been taught the importance of an after exercise recovery plan and miss out some probable gains in fitness, strength and physique due to this ignorance.
Recovery after exercise is essential to allow muscle and other tissue to repair and rebuild. It is in the rebuilding of the muscle the gains from your past session are created. As you can see if you don’t allow your body the time to repair it can never actualise the gains from your previous workout. You don’t get stronger, you don’t get fitter, you will not get any healthier. In fact the reverse occurs, without recovery you will soon become exhausted, disgruntled at the lack of improvement, and quite probably ill.
I have learned this lesson the hard way and can tell you from my own experience adequate rest is essential. That’s why I insist all my clients follow a post-workout plan and here’s a list of the recommendations I use for them. I hope you find this a valuable resource.
You lose a lot of fluid during exercise, probably more than you are aware. Every process in your body needs water, without it, no or poor function. Having enough water will improve every bodily function. Ideally you should drink during exercise however topping up after will speed recovery like nothing else. Aim for 30ml per kilogram of body weight per day as a minimum.
It makes sense if you deplete your body by exercising you’ll need to replenish after. The quality of what you eat is vital if you want to build a stronger, healthier body. You are what you eat, no doubt, so filling yourself with high sugar drinks, coffee, muesli bars, etc is not what your body wants to rebuild itself with. High quality foods containing vegetables, protein, good fats are the building blocks for good health. I recommend eating within 60 minutes of a workout to provide your body with the ingredients it needs to repair.
After a workout is the prime time to stretch muscles. They are warm, blood is flowing and as a result much less chance of injury. Stretching not only increases a muscles range of motion, it will allow the muscle to pump out metabolic waste, enabling a fast and effective recovery.
Ever noticed when you have a cut and you just leave it alone it will heal all by itself. The same happens to muscles. Time is one of the best ways to heal from just about any illness or injury and this also works after a hard workout. Your body has an amazing capacity to take care of itself if you allow it some time. Resting and waiting after a hard workout allows the repair and recovery process to happen at a natural pace. It's not the only thing you can or should do to promote recovery, but sometimes doing nothing is the best thing you can do.
It all happens whilst you are asleep. There’s an amazing amount of work going on within your own body while you lay in bed. Good quality sleep is essential for everyone however it is vital for those of us who consistently exercise at a high level of intensity. Growth Hormone (GH) which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair is produced during sleep.
In summary I feel the most important thing you can do to recovery quickly is to listen to your body. Only you know your body and if you push yourself, or allow others to push you when you are tired and sore, unfortunately you will pay the price.
I’m not suggesting you go slow, but I do wish you to pay attention to your body’s signals and give it what it needs when it needs it. Respect your body and allow it time to recover and get the most value from your effort spent training you deserve.