How Much Time Should You Spend On Recovery?
We all know the drill… you start a new workout class or program it feels amazing, but the next day, you wake up feeling SO sore. You debate between whether you should skip your next workout, but you don’t want to fall off the wagon, so you continue to exercise even though your body is still sore - until it’s weeks later, and you’re completely burnt out, hungry, tired and not seeing any further results.
The problem? You aren’t giving your body enough time to recover.
Once we’ve gotten into a comfortable exercise routine that’s showing positive results, it can become so easy for us to slip into overtraining - for fear that momentum will go away - which is inevitably far worse for our bodies than just giving it the rest it needs to fully recover.
But, what is recovery anyway? And how much of it do you need to ensure that your muscles have enough time to repair and restore themselves so that they’re even stronger and ready to conquer your next workout?
The long answer?
It all depends on a few factors:
Your Current Workout Program - Typically, the higher intensity your workout program, the longer recovery times you’ll need. (For example, heavy weight training, crossfit or HIIT cardio.) On the other hand, low-impact cardio, yoga or exercises involving lighter weights, higher reps and resistance bands can result in very short recovery times.
Your Age - Unfortunate as it is, the older we get, the more recovery time our body needs. A 17-year-old male will recover a lot faster than a 30-year-old female.
The Type of Muscles Worked - The larger the muscle group, the longer you’ll need to rest those muscles before you train them again. This means, you should typically spread out your leg and back training days a bit more than, say, a cardio or upper body session.
Your Day-to-Day Activities - When taking recovery into consideration, don’t forget about your day job or other daily responsibilities! If you’re more active throughout the day, chances are you’ll need a longer window in between workouts to ensure your muscles are fully restored.
Stress and Psychological Factors - Your mental state has a huge influence on your body’s ability to recover. The more stressed you are, the longer your body tends to need to fully replenish your energy stores. So, try your best to be kind - to both your body and mind.
The short answer?
If you’re a beginner or just starting out with a new program, it’s a good idea to rest every third day (two exercise days, one rest day) to ensure you are giving your muscles adequate time to recover. For more experienced exercisers or athletes, resting at least once a week is optimal. In addition, about every six to eight weeks, make sure to include a week where you decrease your training load, and then bring it back up the following week.
REMEMBER: True strength is not only in the building, but in the recovery. It’s knowing that even when we take a break, we’ll be back and better than ever. Because true strength is found not in how many reps we can perform until failure, but in our ability to pick ourselves up after we fail and try again.
Train safe, everyone!