161 Hours part 6: Recovering from Exercise



by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Recovery not only has a significant impact on the benefits you yield from a recent workout, but also on how well prepared your body is for your next workout. If you don’t take the time to make sure you are doing the right things to recover properly, you may not be seeing exactly the results you are expecting from your workouts. You also may be more apt to skip a workout or avoid exercising a certain muscle group due to excessive soreness. However, if you make sure you don’t put recovery on the backburner, you can set yourself up for much greater success.

But what goes into recovery? There are a lot of answers to that question, as recovery has so many factors to consider. First, it is important to avoid over-training. When considering this, it is good to work recovery into your workout schedule. If you are continually training with a maximum stimulus and heavy loads at higher heart rates, it will take a toll on your body. Try to work a “deload” week into your training schedule every month or two to allow your body some active recovery time. A “deload” week is a week of training is essentially a planned week of active recovery where you are still training, but at decreased loads and volumes. This way you are still creating a stimulus with your desired muscle groups, but you are not pushing them to their limits or to failure; so you can actively recover while still working out.

Next, make sure your muscles have an adequate amount of time to recover in between training sessions. If you hit legs hard on Monday, you should probably give yourself until at least Wednesday or Thursday before they are your target muscle group in a workout again. But what about Tuesday? Well you can still workout on Tuesday, but ideally it will be some sort of upper-body workout so that your legs have ample time to rest. If a particular muscle group is still stiff or sore and you try to target it during your workout, you may be increasing your risk for injury because your muscle fibers likely haven’t been able to repair themselves entirely yet.

Another one that we already touched on is sleep. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about it again, but try to have a fairly regular sleeping schedule and aim for that 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This way you will be allowing your body to release more muscle building hormones that will aid in your recovery.

We also already touched on hydration, but it is very important to remember in your recovery. When you exercise, the body loses a lot more fluid; therefore you need more water during and after your workouts to stay hydrated. Make sure you are getting enough water so that your recovery is not delayed!

A very important part of recovery is your post workout nutrition. There are two nutrients that, while needed regularly, your body needs even more after a workout. Protein is needed to aid in muscle recovery, as it is needed to help rebuild muscle tissue. Carbohydrates are needed to help restore your glycogen stores, as that is our main source of energy during physical activity. As we use our carbs up, we also need them back to make sure our energy stores aren’t depleted after a tough workout. Within an hour of completing your workout, Muscle and Fitness recommends that you have a post-workout snack with about 50 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein to help kickstart that recovery process.

Last but not least is quite possibly the most ignored recovery piece out there. Take time to stretch and perform some self myofascial release (self massage) with a foam roller, rolling pin, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or a number of other things. You can also get a professional massage done if you so choose, but a little bit of foam rolling is going to be your more economic choice. Stretching after your workout, while your muscles are warm, is the most ideal time to stretch. The increased blood circulation at this time will benefit you and help reduce your muscle fatigue. According to Muscle and Fitness, foam rolling is going to be beneficial the night of a hard workout to help reduce muscle stiffness, promote circulation, and to help remove scar tissue, muscle adhesions, and fascia restrictions. Performing each of these will help reduce the feeling of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) following a workout, and hopefully make you less likely to skip out on a workout due to overbearing muscle soreness.

Make recovery a priority! Especially if you feel like you are hitting a plateau, recovery is key. The problem may not be your current program, but a lack of time dedicated to recovering from your workouts. While there are a number of things that go into recovery, and some of it may be a bit tedious, none of it is all that difficult. It all just takes a little bit of time and effort on your part, but if you are putting in your hour a day at the gym then recovery should be the easy part!


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