Rest and Recovery
No matter how extensive your fitness program may be, the time you spend working out is only a part of the process necessary to achieve your fitness goals. If you’re planning your training but not your recovery, you’re not going to fully reap the rewards from your Workouts.
One thing that is often misunderstood is the fact that your body becomes stronger AFTER you exercise and NOT during the actual workout itself. The real secret to getting results depends on what happens during the recovery period following the workout. This is why the correct recovery and rest is so important.
There are different types of recovery – Short-term (which happens immediately after a workout set) and Long-term (the period of time between workout sessions).
Short-term recovery can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and it’s important to replace energy stores within this period. But the longer recovery period between workouts is the one to focus on, because it’s the time after the workout when the body adapts to the training session. The correct care of your muscles and connective tissue, eating the right type of post workout nutrition, the quality and quantity of sleep and, even the types of clothes you wear, can all promote the post-workout recovery that’s necessary to help you maximise the results from your time spent exercising.
During exercise, your muscles expend energy and experience stress. After exercise, the body needs to replenish energy with carbohydrates and repair tissue with protein so having a post-workout snack with the correct ratio of carbohydrate and protein can help massively. The correct nutrition also assists the release of the muscle-building hormones to repair and build new muscle tissue.
Stretching and Myofascial Release
Stretching, Massage, Foam rollers, Compression balls and Rolling sticks can all help to reduce muscle tightness. If a muscle doesn’t cool-down properly, the collagen fibres (which are part of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle) can create knots. Massage works by manipulating muscle tissue to break up knots and can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint movement.
Sleep is probably one of the most important factors that can help improve your overall health and fitness. Your body produces most of the hormones needed for tissue repair during sleep so it’s vital to get enough to assist in the recovery process.
Ice, Cold Baths and Cryotherapy
Cold treatments are extremely effective for recovery as they can help cool down the body’s core temperature, reduce inflammation and promote healing in tissue that was used during the workout. The cold temperature brings increased blood to the area, which brings nutrients and oxygen to help promote healing.
Sauna or Hot Tub
The heat from a sauna or hot tub increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products while also carrying oxygen and other nutrients necessary to help repair tissue used during the workout.
Alternating between high and low intensity workouts (muscle confusion) either daily, weekly or monthly and taking a few days off every few weeks to allow the body to rest and recover fully.
Wearing Compression clothing before and after a workout is a relatively new form of recovery treatment that may also be effective. The pressure from the tight clothing can improve circulation which will help remove metabolic waste and promote blood flow to help the tissue repair and rebuild.
Too much exercise without enough rest and recovery can lead to injury or illness, both of which could prevent your regular workouts. There are dangers to overtraining without the correct recovery periods between and If you don’t take enough R&R for your muscles to adapt this will certainly affect your ability to achieve your fitness goals.
NEVER forget to include RECOVERY into your Fitness programme!
What exactly is D.O.M.S ?
Aching muscles, sometimes referred to as D.O.M.S (Delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in sometimes 6 to 8 hours after your workout. It may peak around 24 to 48 hours post workout, although this varies depending on the individual. It’s the result of muscle micro trauma, which causes inflammation and soreness, created in your muscles when you’ve introduced a new exercise, activity or increased the intensity or volume of your usual training. It’s your bods way of making adaptations to prepare your muscles to do it again.
Sore Muscles is the most common characteristic of D.O.M.S, but other symptoms such as reduced range of motion and joint stiffness, local swelling and tenderness, and diminished muscle strength can also occur.
How does it occur?
Its the active lengthening of muscle fibres under load (body weight or weights). Think of it like you’re pulling on a rope, and there’s so much force that the rope starts to tear and pull apart. This is when your muscle fibres sustain tiny tears that cause the trauma to them.
When you’ve experienced D.O.M.S before and are a regular exerciser, it may become the Medal after your workout! You’ve pushed yourself and the fact that you can feel it the next day is your reward. However, it doesn’t always mean that you’re not getting a good workout when you’re not crippled the next day. Studies show that muscle soreness isn’t the best indicator of how hard you’ve worked or how fit you are. It’s true that you will start to feel less sore as your body adapts to your training and works more effectively (The reason it’s wise to regularly change your routine) but people also respond differently to pain and soreness.
D.O.M.S isn’t a bad thing!
Muscle trauma is needed to make muscles stimulate protein production and to repair themselves to get bigger and stronger than before so that the muscle soreness doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately the effects of stretching after your workout don’t always reduce the effects of D.O.M.S. Although while you may not be able to avoid soreness altogether, it’s a good idea to include a warm up and cool-down period as part of your routine. There are other ways to alleviate the symptoms – A massage will move the fluid and blood around in your body which can help the micro trauma in your muscles to heal better, other common ways to treat D.O.M.S include foam rolling, hot and cold showers/baths, Epsom salt, increased protein intake, omega-3 supplementation and sleep. It’s also important to look at your diet to make sure your getting the right balance and enough nutrients to feed your body for the job it’s doing.
There may be times when you overdo it with your workout and feel really bad afterwards. You should be concerned if your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 96 hours, if the pain becomes worse and you start to experience swelling in your limbs, or your urine becomes dark in colour, you should see your doctor. If it’s an injury, you’re more likely to feel it immediately during your workout and you shouldnt ignore this. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day.
So although D.O.M.S (unfortunately) can be a horrible after effect of exercise, it happens for a reason – so you can go back and do the workout all over again – this time Stronger!