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The Importance of Recovery

If you’ve been doing an exercise program, chances are you’ve had one of those days where certain muscles feel sore to the touch, and even stairs look like mountains. This all-too-familiar feeling is known as delayed onset muscle soreness or “DOMS.” It’s usually worst 24-48 hours after exercise. And while some soreness is just part of the package, there are ways we can make sure that our body recovers optimally so that we can make the most of our time in the gym.

“While trying to improve our fitness, we have to take recovery just as seriously as exercise to ensure that our body is not placed under constant physiological stress, which can lead to more harm than good.”

To better understand why recovery is so important, we first have to grasp that exercise is stressful. Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, places demands on our cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous systems. We become better able to handle exercise stress through a variety of adaptations like building muscle, increasing red blood cell count, and many more. Repeatedly placing small amounts of stress on ourselves makes them better in numerous ways, as long as we allow ourselves to recover. Constant stress in any area of life is never beneficial, including exercise. While trying to improve our fitness, we have to take recovery just as seriously as exercise.  We don’t get fitter by doing hard workouts.  We get fitter by recovering from hard workouts.

Your workout actually causes a decrease in your level of fitness due to fatigue and the stress placed on us. When we allow ourselves to recover, our fitness level first returns to normal.  But here’s where it gets awesome: we react to the stress of a workout by building extra capacity, in case we see that workload or more next time.  This is known as “supercompensation,” and it’s when our “gains” happen.

But it gets better: when another training stimulus is placed on us  during this stage of supercompensation, the cycle repeats and our fitness levels continue to climb.

The key to taking advantage of supercompensation is making sure we don’t perform similar workloads too soon or too late after a workout. Workout too late after the stage of supercompensation has ended, and we’ve essentially missed our chance and our fitness levels could stay stagnant. However, if another training stimulus is placed on the same muscles or systems before full recovery happens, overtraining can occur and our fitness level can decline. The big takeaway is to listen to our bodies and make sure we’re taking recovery seriously to make sure our body is ready for its next workout.

When you aren’t feeling ready for another workout, listen to your body, keep the workout light, less intense, or work different movements and energy systems than your last workout.  And take a rest day if you need to.  Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of fun workouts in your future if you take care of yourself and prioritize recovery.

Related: 7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight

As far as HOW to recover, sleep is king. Without enough quality sleep, it can be close to impossible for your body to recover after a workout.  Seven and a half hours, give or take thirty minutes.

Next comes nutrition.  Specifically, make sure you’re consuming adequate protein will make sure your muscles and other tissues have what they need to build back up after being broken down during a workout.

Also important are mobility and flexibility work, which will keep joints and muscles happy and healthy so that you can keep working hard in the gym. This will also help shorten the time you feel stiff and sore.

Feel free to ask any of the coaches how you can best recover next time you’re in the gym, or shoot me an email at jay@crossfitslipstream.com if you have any more questions about your recovery.

Related: Protein Intake for Best Results

–Jay Alexander