When you’re actively pursuing fitness goals, it may be tempting to push your body to the absolute limit. But working out seven days a week not only doesn’t help meet your goals, but it could actually sabotage your fitness journey. Fitness isn’t just about your workouts; recovery days are important, too.
What is a Recovery Day?
Think of it this way: you need the weekends to recover mentally from work. For five days, you’ve pushed yourself for eight hours (or more), stimulating your brain, reacting to stress, and engaging with your co-workers. Weekends are the time when you can mentally and emotionally recover from a long week.
Recovery days aren’t any different. All week, you killed your workouts, pushing your body extra hard. At least one day a week, your body needs time to recover and heal.
However, there are two separate words to focus on here: rest and recovery.
Recovery is actively participating in your body’s healing. This could mean staying hydrated, eating nutritious foods, going for a short walk to limit muscle soreness, or stretching or doing yoga on your recovery days. But more than just taking care of your body, recovery also includes taking care of your mental and emotional health. Your recovery days are an excellent time to focus on stress reduction and personal growth.
The Right Amount of Recovery
How many recovery days do you need per week? That’s dependent on your physical activity level, training intensity, age, gender, and many other factors. Consult a professional fitness trainer to determine the ideal recovery plan based on your fitness regimen. Typically, you need at least one recovery day per week to allow your body to heal.
When you lift weights or perform high-intensity activities, your muscles actually develop microscopic tears. Over time, as your muscles repair themselves, they become stronger, leaner, and yes – bigger.
But to give your muscles a chance to heal and strengthen, we must provide our bodies with an opportunity to recover. Most training programs factor muscle healing into their schedules. That’s why you work your arms one day, then your legs the next. These “off days” give each muscle group a chance to rebuild.
However, it’s also essential to give every muscle group a chance to heal and recover. That’s where recovery days come into play.
Some studies suggest that professional athletes might need as many as 48 hours to recover from a workout fully. And those new to fitness might need even more time.
Sleep and its Role in Recovery
While recovery is an incredibly important part of any fitness regimen, rest is vital, too. If you’re not seeing results from your workouts, the biggest obstacle might not be in the gym, but in your bed.
Most adults need a solid eight hours of sleep. Those with especially intense fitness programs might need even more rest. That’s because when we sleep, our bodies release muscle-building and stress-relieving hormones.
The quality of your sleep matters, too. If you’re getting eight hours, but it’s a restless sleep without enough REM cycles, your body and brain won’t be able to recover as well. Following proper sleep hygiene habits can not only increase the amount of sleep you get but can also make sure you’re getting high-quality sleep, too.
So the next time you want to stay up late and get up at 4:00 am for your workout, consider hitting the snooze button. Your pillow just might be the best fitness tool you have.
The Consequences of Overtraining
Pushing your body too hard, without adequate rest and recovery periods, won’t just leave you feeling worn out. It can also lead to “overtraining syndrome” (OTS), a condition marked by extreme fatigue, irritability, changes in mood, and impacts on vital organ systems.
OTS can drastically impact performance, particularly in elite athletes. However, overcoming OTS could be as easy as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious recovery meals, staying hydrated, and getting regular sports massages.
Take Care of Your Body
Fitness is incredibly important to our physical, mental, and emotional health. However, part of taking care of our bodies means giving them enough time to rest and recover.
If you’re experiencing a plateau in your results – or if you’re experiencing low energy levels – the answer might not be training harder. Instead, the answer might mean not training as much.
Make sure to take care of your bodies and give yourself time to rest.