The recovery period that you allow yourself between workouts is when the real improvement in your body’s systems takes place. If you don’t take a recovery period, your muscles won’t be able to repair, rebuild and strengthen at maximum efficiency. If you have any questions about how to properly incorporate recovery into your schedule, you should talk with a physical therapist at our clinic for more information.
The Recovery Process
Your body undergoes strain during exercise, and the recovery period is what allows your body to adapt to that strain. Working out causes muscle tissues to break down. These tissues are actually “damaged” during a workout; rest and recovery allow those tissues to heal and grow stronger. Resting also allows you to restore the energy that you lose by working out, such as muscle glycogen.
Principle of Adaptation
The “Principle of Adaptation” states that when your body goes through the stress of exercise, it then adapts, and you grow more efficient. In practical terms, it means you can run longer (your cardiovascular system improves), lift heavier weights (stronger, more efficient muscles) and achieve other improvements. In this fashion, exercise works similarly to learning any new skill. It can be difficult at first, and then it gets easier over time as you become better (more efficient) at the skill. But as any physical therapist will tell you, the body can only handle a certain amount of stress before it begins to break down or become injured.
Ideally, you will have short-term and long-term recovery periods if you are on a year-round workout schedule. A short-term recovery actually begins right when your workout concludes. It can look something like this:
- Cool-Down Phase: Do some low-intensity exercises right after a hard workout and in the days that follow. This keeps the muscles elastic and prevents cramping.
- Replenishment: A workout takes a lot out of you, so you need to put the right things back in. Your physical therapist can make recommendations for your post-workout meal that will help with your recovery period.
- Quality Sleep: Getting the right amount of good sleep is the final component to short-term recovery. Your body cannot truly rest if you constantly try to be a night owl.
Long-term recovery periods are those that are worked into a year-round schedule. As part of a physical therapy routine combined with year-round exercise, you will work days or entire weeks of rest into your schedule for recovery. You’ve probably noticed that high-level athletes change their training routine throughout the year. This is part of the long-term recovery process, which allows the athlete’s body to recover in one area while they switch up the routine with cross training or other techniques.
Signs of Overtraining
If you don’t work proper rest periods into your workout schedule, you run the risk of overtraining. This is a circular trap that a lot of athletes fall into. You feel great, so you skip the recovery process, thinking you’re ready for some big gains. Before you know it, your performance decreases. The “obvious” solution — at least it seems that way at the time — is that you are slipping because you’re not working out enough. So, you skip out on recovery periods even more to increase your workouts, and so on. Other signs of overtraining include depression, a feeling of general sluggishness and feeling stale about the whole workout process. The bottom line is that you’re not allowing yourself enough recovery time and therefore run an increased risk of injury.
Working the proper amount of recovery into your schedule is just one of the things that a physical therapist will help you with, whether you’re in rehabilitation from a sports injury or just trying to maintain an intense workout program. If you feel like you’ve been overtraining and need some guidance, contact us right away to speak with a physical therapist.