Optimising Your Recovery

Written by: Club Bunker



Time to read min

Understanding why rest and recovery are important

Your muscles actually grow when you rest, not when you're training at the gym. When you exercise, especially when you do strength training, your muscles get tiny tears that need to be repaired and adapted by your body. And that's how you get stronger. But here's the catch: this whole process takes time, usually around 48 to 72 hours, depending on what kind of workout you do.


Now, if you don't give yourself enough time to recover between workouts (and forget about getting proper sleep), your body won't have a chance to adapt properly. That means no progress and a higher risk of injuries. So, that's why rest is crucial. It helps you get the most out of your training sessions and ultimately achieve better results.

Rest also helps replenish your glycogen stores. Those are like your muscles and liver's energy reserves that get depleted when you exercise, especially during cardio. By taking some downtime and eating well for about 48 hours, you give your body a chance to refill those energy stores and get ready for your next sweat session. It's all about improving your ability to push harder during your workouts and getting long-term gains.

If you don't give yourself enough rest and recovery, your hormone levels go out of balance. Exercise is like a stressor that triggers the release of growth hormone, which is great for muscle growth. But your body can't tell the difference between the stress from working out and the stress from daily life. So, it releases cortisol, the stress hormone.

If you don't manage the stress in your life, especially by getting enough quality sleep, it messes with your hormone balance. Your insulin sensitivity goes down, your levels of leptin (the hormone that suppresses appetite) decrease, and your levels of ghrelin (the hormone that makes you hungry) increase. And you know what that means? It becomes harder to lose body fat, no matter how much you exercise. It's the opposite of what you're trying to achieve.

For a successful training program, you need to prioritize rest and recovery. Find that sweet spot where you can train consistently, manage life stress, and push yourself in a way that allows for steady and positive progress. And don't forget to fuel your body with good nutrition to support your training. It's all about finding that balance and setting yourself up for success in the long run.


How to know if your body is not recovering

Insufficient rest and recovery can manifest in various ways, and the most apparent signs are the stubborn retention of body fat despite regular training and a lack of improvement in performance. However, there are other significant indicators to be aware of, indicating that you may need to reassess your rest and recovery practices. Here are some additional signs to watch out for:

  1. Disrupted Sleep: Poor-quality sleep characterized by frequent awakenings and difficulty falling asleep can be a telling sign. You may experience daytime fatigue despite feeling wide awake at night, and night sweats might also be present. These sleep disturbances can be attributed to inadequate recovery and overtraining.
  2. Impaired Performance: Despite putting in the effort, you may notice a decline in training or competition performance. You might struggle to maintain intensity, power, and overall effectiveness during workouts, despite pushing yourself. This diminished performance can be a result of insufficient recovery and fatigue.
  3. Lingering Soreness and Injuries: Prolonged muscle soreness following workouts and the onset of overuse injuries can be strong indications of overtraining and an imbalance in your training approach. When your muscles and tendons fail to adapt adequately to the microtrauma caused by training, and the breakdown surpasses the repair, it becomes increasingly likely that you may experience a sudden halt to your training due to an uncontrollable injury.
  4. Increased Illness and Slower Recovery: Frequent illnesses and prolonged recovery periods from sickness can be signs of a compromised immune system resulting from overtraining and elevated cortisol levels. You may notice changes in appetite, such as an increase or decrease, and other significant blood markers, including reduced iron levels, low Vitamin D, and elevated creatine kinase levels (indicating muscle breakdown).
  5. Mental and Emotional Discomfort: Pay attention to your mindset. If you find yourself lacking motivation to train, feeling unfulfilled or distant from your goals, or experiencing feelings of sadness or depression, it could be your mind signalling that you're experiencing burnout and need adequate rest and recovery.

It's crucial to listen to your body and mind, as these signs serve as valuable indicators that you need to prioritize rest and recovery. Incorporating proper downtime into your training routine will not only optimize your performance but also safeguard your overall well-being. Remember, rest and recovery are key ingredients for long-term progress and a healthy training mindset. 


Ways To help your body recover

To optimize your recovery periods and enhance your rest and recovery routine, consider incorporating the following practices:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Consistent hydration is crucial for muscle recovery. Your body requires an ample supply of water to build the proteins that make up muscle tissue. While plain water suffices for general hydration, during intense workouts where you sweat profusely, consider consuming sports drinks that contain electrolytes to replenish the salts lost through sweat.
  2. Fuel with the Right Foods: Before a workout, consume a protein-rich snack such as eggs, peanut butter, or a protein shake. If your workout involves aerobic activities like running or cycling, including some carbohydrates in your pre-workout meal can provide immediate energy. However, be mindful not to overload on carbs, as excessive consumption can lead to lactic acid buildup and cramping. After your workout, prioritize protein consumption to aid in replenishing glycogen stores and muscle repair.
  3. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals. Sore muscles indicate the need for recovery. If you've pushed your muscles to exhaustion during a workout, expect some degree of muscle soreness the following day. It's essential to allow your muscles time to recover and rebuild. Only return to lifting or intense workouts once the soreness has significantly subsided.
  4. Incorporate Active Recovery: Rest days don't necessarily mean complete inactivity. Consider engaging in active recovery exercises like light yoga, tai chi, or sustained stretching sessions. These activities promote blood flow, flexibility, and mobility, aiding in muscle recovery. Even a leisurely outdoor walk can serve as a beneficial form of exercise that doesn't hinder muscle recovery.
  5. Utilize Foam Rollers: Foam rolling is a great technique to relieve muscle tension and promote recovery. By massaging your sore muscles with foam rollers, you can target both the muscles and the connective tissues (fasciae), promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tightness.
  6. Prioritize Sleep: Sufficient and quality sleep is paramount for muscular recovery. Aim for a consistent seven hours of sleep per night to provide your body with the necessary rest and rejuvenation it needs. By prioritizing sleep, you minimize "non-training stress" and help lower cortisol levels. It's essential to recognize that the majority of repair and recovery occurs during sleep. Consider making adjustments in your schedule, such as saying no to additional tasks or social activities, to ensure you obtain adequate and quality sleep as an integral part of your overall training routine.

Remember, implementing these practices in your rest and recovery routine allows your body to heal, rebuild, and perform at its best.


What does a good recovery program look like?

Proper recovery should be an integral part of your exercise routine, just like the actual training sessions. Here's how you can plan your recovery effectively:

  1. Main Training Sessions (Strength Training): Aim for 2-3 sessions per week, focusing on progressively building strength and improving performance. These sessions should be well-structured, targeting weak areas and areas necessary for your performance. Consistency and progressive overload are key to success. It's normal to feel fatigued after these sessions, as they are where the hard work happens. To allow sufficient recovery time for growth and repair, schedule these sessions on Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.
  2. Main Cardiovascular Training: If you're training for cardio performance, schedule your main cardio training days on the same days as your strength training sessions. This ensures a rest day follows the intense cardio training (which takes 3-4 hours to recover from) and allows for optimal results. Focus on challenging workouts such as interval training or speed work to drive improvement and adaptation. A good coach will select appropriate workouts to avoid injury.
  3. Rest Days: Take a rest day after your harder workout days. These days are essential for your body to recover and promote the breakdown of exercise metabolites. Keep exercise on these days to no more than 1 hour (ideally under 40 minutes) and maintain a conversational pace. Enjoy activities like a leisurely walk or a gentle bike ride, but avoid overdoing it to preserve your recovery and performance for heavier training days.
  4. Other Light Training Days: On the day before your first heavy training day of the week or, if training twice a week, the day after your recovery day, incorporate lighter sessions focused on developing skills, technique, and other technical aspects of your sport. Use these days to refine your technical abilities while leaving performance development for specific training days.

Remember, planning your recovery alongside your training sessions ensures optimal results and minimizes the risk of injury. Give your body the time it needs to repair and be at its best for future training sessions.