The Importance of Recovery Days
If you’re an exercise aficionado, you might feel guilty about taking a day off from your intense workouts. We get it.
But taking recovery days is important for continued adaptation, as well as the overall well-being, of your body in the longterm.
It’s the same concept as short term recovery; what you do in the hours immediately after intense exercise. Recovery days may involve low-intensity exercises. They may involve consuming special foods or drinks. Or they may just be a chance to rest and replenish your body.
Whatever the case, how frequently you take recovery days depends on the amount of stress you put on your body during exercise.
What Is Your Intensity?
There’s cardiovascular training and strength training. The body reacts to each differently.
If the bulk of your exercise routine is weight training, the ideal number of recovery days is two before hitting each muscle group. Therefore, if you train two days in a row, you’ll want to target different muscle groups.
On the other hand, with high-intensity cardio training, it’s best to recover for two or more days in between workouts. This is especially the case when you’re new to it.
These are, of course, just recommendations. The number of recovery days will depend on the intensity of your training session. So perhaps you do a high-intensity workout one day, then follow it with one of lower intensity the next.
Different Types of Recovery Days
As we mentioned above, recovery days are not all the same. There are passive recovery days where you take the day off completely from any sort of exercise and just allow for rest.
Then there are active recovery days. On these days, the focus is on low-intensity exercise where there is no or very minimal stress on the body. These exercises might include walking, mat Pilates, or gentle yoga. During active recovery, the body works to repair muscles, tendons, and ligaments while removing the chemicals that build up during higher-intensity exercise.
Indications You Need a Recovery Day
Our bodies are well-equipped to tell us when enough is enough. Learning how to listen to your body and honoring those cues is key in successful recovery.
The basic signs of overtraining include unexplained decrease in performance, musculoskeletal pains and aches, and general feelings of fatigue.
If you continue to push yourself too hard, your body will continue to tell you to slow down. You might have a hard time sleeping, notice a decreased appetite, or even feel depressed, stressed, and agitated. And if you already have high levels of stress at work or at home, overtraining in an attempt to alleviate them may actually exacerbate them.
Benefits of Taking a Recovery Day
It’s understandable that the thought of a day away from the gym or partaking in an activity leaves you feeling apprehensive. But here are some benefits of taking a recovery day to consider:
1. Tissue Repair
Exercise puts a lot of stress on your body. And sometimes, that’s the point. As the body repairs itself, it gets stronger. But there’s a limit to everything.
Giving yourself the chance to recover allows time for individual cells known as fibroblasts to repair damaged tissues such as muscles proteins. Without this downtime, they don’t have an opportunity to do their job.
2. Easing Psychological Fatigue
There are many days where a good workout can help release stress and tension. This is due, in part, to the fact that the brain is also challenged when you’re engaged in a tough workout. And over time, this can cause psychological fatigue that can lead to the above mentioned depression, stress, and agitation.
Recovery days allow your brain to rest too.
3. Boosting Circulatory System Performance
If you notice that your muscles feel continually sore day after day, you may need a recovery day. Your circulatory system needs energy to perform its job of removing the metabolic byproducts in muscle cells we talked about above. Resting your body will also enable it to better deliver the oxygen and nutrients to sore muscles.
4. Recharge Your Battery
Moderate- to high-intensity exercise uses carbohydrates to fuel muscle activity. But if you frequently feel sluggish or drained at the end of a workout rather than recharged, it could be that your glycogen levels are depleted.
With low glycogen levels, your body could catabolize protein for fuel instead of using it to repair muscle tissue. Giving your body a day to recover will allow it to properly replace the energy stores in your muscle cells so that you’ll be restore and ready for the next challenging workout.
5. Improved Work Life
Maybe a part of your workday is getting up extra early to get to the gym. Or maybe you hit bootcamp after work. You might even do this to lessen the stress of work.
Yet, sometimes carving out that extra time can mean your work suffers. So consider taking a recovery day to catch up with work responsibilities. Taking the time instead to organize or get ahead on the next big project will also reduce your overall stress while giving your body time to rest.
6. More Time With Family/Friends
Is your obsessive workout schedule pulling you away from your loved ones? By taking a regular recovery day, you’ll be able to commit more time to them. Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lounging on the couch.
Maybe you schedule a long walk with your partner to talk about what’s going on in your lives. Or you invite you kids to participate in some gentle Pilates movements. However it plays out, it’s valuable time to connect.
Are You Getting the Most From Your Recovery Days?
By now, you probably know that more isn’t always better.
Avoiding recovery days can ultimately lead to overtraining or repetitive stress injuries – both of which will force you to rest. And for longer than you may want.
So if you’re interested in a balanced exercise regimen, contact us today to talk to our physical therapists and/or Pilates instructors.They can help you with a well-designed exercise program that will allow you to meet your goals while providing adequate rest and recovery.