Why a Rest and Recovery Strategy is Essential for Peak Fitness

Rest and recovery

Imagine this… you’re eating well, and hitting the gym several times a week but are still feeling low in energy or not making the gains you’d hope or expect. Naturally, you’re going to ask yourself, what on earth is happening here? I’m doing everything right.  I know, we don’t like to hear this – especially when those exercise endorphins are rushing – but maybe you’re not taking the time to rest and recover after a hard session. Rest? Recover? Say what!

In today’s ‘million miles an hour culture,’ we’re all trying to ram as much as possible into our all-too-short days. Working the 9-5, running a home, carting the kids around, eating healthily, smashing it in the gym.

But what if we take a moment to sit down and breathe?

How does that feel?  Better?

In this article, we’re going to look at why rest and recovery are essential to any fitness routine. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but depending on your own goals, training less can make you perform better and train harder!

So why do I need to rest?

Did you know that rest and recovery are as important as exercise for our physical and mental health? Giving time for our body to heal itself and be ready for the next training session will also improve our performance in the longer term. Plus allowing our body to recover also reduces the risk of potential injury due to overuse.

When we are exercising, we are essentially stressing and temporarily damaging our muscles, as a result, we become fatigued, and our performance reduces.

When we remove that stress by resting, a period of recovery follows. It is during this recovery period that we make the gains!

How do I know when to rest?

Can’t face those stairs? How about lowering onto the toilet seat?

When we do physical exercise - whether it’s lunges, deadlifts, squats or upper body work – we are making small tears in the muscle fibres. These tiny tears are also what cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, leaving us walking like old stiff legs, or unable to hang the clothes on the line for a week.

When we enter the recovery period, the body starts to repair those tiny tears in the muscle, which results in inflammation and in turn, increases the size of our muscle and gives us an improvement in performance.

So, if you’re feeling tired or sore, remember, it’s okay to take a day off! Your body needs time to recover and pushing through the pain can do more harm than good.

Five easy ways to recover faster

  1. Rest! Whether it’s having a bath, going for a gentle walk or sticking a movie on; resting is good for the body. You don’t need to feel lazy or guilty, remember you’re rebuilding your muscles by resting.
  2. Sleep! Without going into the numerous benefits of sleep, rest assured that sleep is essential for recovery to allow our bodies to repair and our muscles to rebuild. Aim for 7-8 hours a night.
  3. Stretch and roll! Grab that funny-looking foam roller or a hard ball and get into those tight spots. Again, this will help to bring blood flow into these areas promoting faster recovery and reducing any soreness.
  4. Fuel! Eat a balanced whole foods diet with plenty of protein, carbs, fibre, and healthy fats to help support muscle recovery.
  5. Supplements! Creatine, magnesium and Omega 3 fatty acids are all proven to help reduce muscle soreness and aid recovery. Taking a protein shake after class can also help to repair and rebuild muscles by promoting growth.

But what about saunas and ice baths?

The rest and recovery industries are booming right now. You’ve probably seen people posting pics on their social media inside infrared saunas or taking a breathtaking dip in an ice bath...brrrr… so why is everyone suddenly exposing themselves to these temperature extremes?

Reduce inflammation and get happy with an ice bath

Ice bath

Dipping into plunge pools or rolling in the snow has been an important health routine in many European countries for centuries.

Recently, ice baths have been popularised by Dutch extreme athlete, Wim Hof, who developed a method of breathing and cold exposure that has been proven to have numerous health benefits. Ice baths involve immersing the body in cold water for a short period (typically 5-10 minutes) which has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve circulation and produce happy hormones - endorphins. Ice baths are beneficial for athletes as they can help speed up recovery time and reduce muscle soreness by reducing swelling and inflammation and helping to flush out metabolic waste products.

Detox, speed up recovery time and lose weight with an infrared sauna

Infrared sauna

If cold exposure isn’t for you, try an infrared sauna. These saunas work by warming your core. They are generally set at a lower temperature so you can withstand the heat for 30-45 minutes. They have numerous benefits from detoxification, improved circulation and improved cardiovascular health to weight loss, collagen production and muscle recovery.

By increasing blood flow to the muscles you’re essentially speeding up recovery time and reducing soreness. The sweating process from having a sauna can also help to flush out any waste products, such as lactic acid, which can contribute to soreness and fatigue.

What is the difference between passive and active recovery?

Resting, sleeping or taking a bath are all forms of passive recovery. This is essentially taking a break from exercise to allow the body to rest and recover on its own.  This is important for allowing the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue and recharge energy levels.

Sometimes we can recover faster by moving. Active recovery involves low-intensity physical activity such as going for a walk, a light jog or swimming. This helps to get the blood flowing which can help repair muscles more quickly by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

Our experienced personal trainers can develop a program for you that involves both passive and active recovery days to ensure you’re getting the right balance of exercise and recovery for optimum performance.

Organise your recovery routine at Live Fit Yarrabilba

We have installed an infrared sauna and an ice bath to help our members recover faster and enjoy the many benefits that come from using these facilities.

You can book your Sauna and IceBath session during our staffed hours, or upgrade to our Premium Membership level and enjoy unlimited use of these facilities.