Training four to five days a week can be mentally draining, and recharging your batteries is vital. Feeling refreshed before a workout can help prevent injuries caused by fatigue and lack of focus. So, make sure to prioritise rest and recovery in your strength and conditioning program.
The two types of recovery are short-term recovery and long-term recovery.
Short-term recovery is the most familiar type. It occurs after intense activity and involves low-intensity movements, such as a cool-down. These movements aim to hasten recovery and decrease muscle soreness.
In a training program, a long-term recovery refers to strategically planned periods of rest that are implemented throughout the year, allowing for better performance and overall physical well-being.
Getting enough quality sleep is also a crucial aspect of rest and recovery. Those with irregular sleep patterns or sleep deprivation are more likely to experience subpar fitness performance and elevated cortisol levels, which regulate stress.
Four reasons rest and recovery are crucial for injury prevention
Most gym-goers recognise the significance of allotting days for rest and recovery, yet they feel guilty about taking rest. I once trained one of the top athletes globally, and she was a pleasure to work with. Nevertheless, my most daunting task was convincing her to take a break.
Studies show that rest and recovery provide numerous benefits, including muscle repair. However, one of the most significant advantages of resting is that it rejuvenates you mentally, enabling you to return to your activities with renewed strength and vitality.
Ultimately, rest and recovery enhance both physical and psychological well-being.
1Promote muscle recovery
When you engage in physical activity, your body uses up its glycogen reserves, leading to the breakdown of muscle fibers. It is essential to rest and allow for proper recovery time, as this enables your body to replenish its glycogen stores through adequate nutrition.
Giving your muscles enough rest and recovery time is essential to avoid further damage and injury. This can negatively impact your fitness performance and results. To repair your muscles on your days off, make sure to consume foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein.
Most gym-goers overlook the significance of refueling on their off days, which can hinder their performance. It is essential for those who regularly go to the gym to ensure they stay adequately hydrated. During exercise, limiting fluid losses to no more than 2% of body weight is recommended to avoid dehydration.
Therefore, you must ensure you provide your body with the necessary nutrients even on rest days.
2Support and facilitates body adaptation
Adaptation is a process by which the body becomes more efficient in response to a certain level of stress. It can be compared to learning a new skill, which can be difficult and frustrating at first, but as time goes on, you adjust, and the skill eventually becomes second nature.
Adaptation is an ongoing process that requires increasing levels of stress and physical exertion to continue progressing. Once you’ve adapted to a specific physical challenge, it’s necessary to push yourself further to see improvement.
Similar to many things in life, there are limitations, and the human body is no exception. Gym-goers can only push themselves to a certain extent before their body gives up. To address this issue, it is essential to rest and recover.
It’s important to find the right balance when it comes to training. Overtraining can increase the risk of injury, while not training enough leads to no progress or adaptation.
3Help to prevent overtraining
Overtraining is a common issue among gym-goers who push their bodies beyond their limits. This can result in serious long-term injuries and even health conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is important to listen to your coach’s guidance and prioritise your body’s health to avoid these outcomes.
It’s been estimated that many athletes, possibly as many as 60%, experience overtraining or burnout at some point. I witnessed this myself coaching an elite female athlete who lost four years of her career due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Research has shown that overtraining can increase the risk of runners dropping out by 10%, as observed in a study that focused on treadmill runners.
4Promotes a healthy mind
Allowing yourself a break from your sport or hobby is crucial to maintaining good mental health. Even the most successful individuals can be weighed down by their busy schedules and rigorous training. While stepping away from these activities may be challenging, taking time to unwind and recharge can significantly enhance your overall well-being.
It’s important to take breaks from the daily grind and make time for activities that bring you joy. Spending time with loved ones, treating yourself to a nice meal, or watching a good movie can do wonders for your mental well-being and help prevent injury.
When taking a day off, there are no rigid rules to follow. Some people prefer staying active, while others unwind by reading a book or listening to music. The most important thing is to do what makes you feel relaxed and helps you perform your best.
What activities can you do on your rest days?
Rest days don’t come with strict rules, but most athletes typically adhere to two types of recovery strategies; ‘passive recovery’ and ‘active recovery.’
Passive recovery, for example, entails a full day of rest from exercise and activity. In contrast, active recovery requires engaging in low-intensity exercise to maintain body condition and blood circulation.
Research has shown that active recovery is more effective than passive recovery in maintaining endurance performance. In fact, during trials, endurance performance decreased almost three times more with passive recovery (a decrease of 11.8%) compared to active recovery (a decrease of 4.1%).
Warm-ups and injury prevention
Gone are the days when you would simply count to 30 while sitting and completing static stretches. Thanks to advances in sports science, we now know that warm-ups are crucial in reducing the risk of injury. Gym-goers can better prepare their bodies for physical activity and improve performance by incorporating proper warm-up techniques.
Dynamic stretching is ideal for those who want to warm up effectively. Whether you’re gearing up for a CrossFit training session or a major game, it’s a must-have. In fact, most professional athletes now include some form of dynamic stretching in their warm-up routine.
Recent studies have indicated that holding a stretch for more than 10 seconds does not reduce the risk of short or long-term injury. Moreover, static stretching can harm the performance of athletes who require explosive movements in activities like weightlifting, running, and CrossFit.
Most experienced coaches have incorporated dynamic stretching into their programs. These stretches are specifically designed to mimic the sport’s movements and target the muscles most used.
Five examples of dynamic stretches
1. The carioca step
2. Side shuffles
3. Backward jogging
4. Knees to chest
5. Walking and lunging with a slight twist
Switching things up regularly is important to keep your stretching routine engaging. Doing the same exercises repeatedly can become dull and uninteresting for many individuals.
Cool-downs and injury prevention
It’s common for people who go to the gym to overlook the significance of cooling down properly. They may rush through it or even skip it, believing they can recover later. However, this can be detrimental to their overall fitness and health.
To prevent injury and speed up recovery, it’s essential to dedicate 20 minutes after every session to stretching. You can include both dynamic and static stretches in your routine. Dynamic stretches are better suited for pre-competition warm-ups, while a mix of dynamic and static stretches should be done during cool-downs.
To effectively recover and cool down after physical activity, it’s important to refuel with a nutritious post-game meal and rehydrate appropriately. Doing this speeds up recovery, increases energy levels, and helps repair muscle damage.
Sum it up
Injuries are an unfortunate and inevitable aspect of sports and fitness. To minimise the risk of injury, it’s essential to dedicate time to preventive measures, such as rest and recovery, and incorporate both static and dynamic stretches into your routine. By doing so, you can increase your chances of staying injury-free and enjoying a healthy and active lifestyle.
Want to learn more?
In his speech at the First Annual Micheli Lecture on Innovations and Future Directions for Sports Injury Prevention, Lars Engebretsen, MD, Ph.D., of the University of Oslo Medical School, provides an overview of the history, current strategies, and research related to sports injury prevention.
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