After a strenuous workout, we all know our bodies need recovery time. But sometimes, we don’t focus on recovery like we should because we want to progress. The irony? Balancing the need for rest versus intensity helps you avoid injury — which means more days to work out without forced breaks.
Rest doesn’t mean stopping all workouts; it can mean changing your routine to use different muscles on different days.
Here’s a simple schedule you could follow and adjust to your needs:
- Three days of strength training (Monday, Wednesday and Friday)
- Two days of cardio (Tuesday and Thursday)
- Two days of active rest (not so much couch-potato action, just light activities) on weekends
When you alternate between strength training and cardiovascular exercise, for example, your body has time to recover in between similar workouts, says certified athletic trainer Amanda McMahan.
She says, “When you place greater than normal resistance on a muscle, it causes small microscopic tears in the tissue. This is perfectly normal. The tearing allows the muscle to strengthen, allowing viability of the muscle to increase.”
In addition to resting in between workouts, Ms. McMahan suggests using these tips to get the most out of your recovery time.
1. Don’t neglect the stretch
Incorporate stretching into your cool-down period. “People who stretch during cool down tend to have fewer complaints of muscle soreness and fewer injuries,” Ms. McMahan says.
Take between five and 10 minutes to help your body gradually transition to a resting or near-resting state.
2. Get your H20
Hydration after any workout is very important —and drinking water is often the best place to start.
“Water is the most essential of all our nutrients,” Ms. McMahan says. “And replacing water after exercise aids in the recovery process.”
As you sweat during a workout, your body drains its water reserves. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches and poor physical performance. That’s why keeping yourself hydrated is one of the keys to good recovery.
3. Replenish with electrolytes
As you sweat, you also lose electrolytes — sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
“Electrolyte loss can also cause muscle cramping. So you want to replace those after activity,” Ms. McMahan says.
Sports drinks can help replenish your reserves after electrolyte loss as well as eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Bananas are a great after-workout snack filled with potassium, she says.
4. Power up with protein
Protein is critical because it helps you rebuild your muscles. Ms. McMahan recommends eating at least 20 grams of protein right after a tough workout. Good sources include eggs, fish, chicken, a protein bar or protein shake, she says.
5. Sleep well
Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. After a workout, it’s even more important to achieve this recommended amount of sleep to aid in your recovery.
“If you’re not resting enough, you will not feel the full benefits of your workout and you won’t effectively rebuild those muscles,” says Ms. McMahan.
6. Go for active rest
Active rest is after a week of intense exercise is critical. “This doesn’t mean you sit on the couch all weekend,” Ms. McMahan says. “Instead, perform light exercise to stimulate the recovery process without imposing undue stress.”
She recommends light activities you enjoy. This can include swimming, cycling, walking, hiking or kayaking. “Active rest is not as strenuous as your regular routine, but you are still staying active,” she says.
Follow these tips to help your body recover from your weekly workout routines, and you’ll find yourself refreshed and refueled — and ready to crank up your workouts when the new week begins.