In a world where time is a precious commodity, and you always struggle to fit your exercise into your hectic schedule, it’s very easy to forget one of the essential ingredients to fitness success – recovery.

Irrespective of your age or the nature of exercise you performed, be it a jog, aerobic exercises or lifting weights, recovering properly is essential. Unfortunately, most of us know getting sufficient rest after a workout is crucial to high-level performance, but we still go ahead to over train and feel guilty when we take a day off.

The body allows the worn-out tissues during the period between workouts to recover and training with no recovery will weaken the exerciser in no time. 

What is recovery

One of the most important aspects following any type of training is the planned rest and recovery necessary to achieve maximum gains. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked by most individuals. Proper recovery should allow the body to repair muscle and connective tissues broken down during training as well as restore energy stores that have been depleted. Rest between sets: The amount of rest necessary between sets varies depending on the type of exercise being performed, the individual performing it and the goal of the training program. The rest interval between sets allows for the recovery of the energy systems and determines the amount of lactic acid produced during exercise that will be removed. Lactic acid is build up in muscles which slows the muscle recovery. Larger athletes, with more muscle mass will require more rest time for adequate recovery.

Short and long term recovery

Short-term recovery, sometimes called active recovery occurs in the hours immediately after intense exercise. Active recovery refers to engaging in low-intensity exercise after workouts during the cool-down phase immediately after a hard effort or workout.

Long-term recovery techniques refer to those that are built in to a seasonal training program. Most well-designed training schedules will include recovery days and or weeks that are built into an annual training schedule. This is also the reason the advance and experienced exerciser change their training program throughout the year.

Through the course of a workout, the body becomes depleted of vital fluids and nutrients faster. Everything used must be replaced so that the body can be prepare to go to work the next time. The two nutrients that the body needs most post-exercise are proteins and carbohydrates. Active muscles use a form of stored glucose called glycogen as energy for work. During and immediately following a workout, the body releases insulin, which promotes the uptake of glucose from the blood, to replace depleted glycogen stores.

Also, protein is needed for the repair of damaged muscle tissue as well for the interactive effect on insulin secretion. Another important factor affecting recovery is sleep. Due to lifestyle, most of us suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder. It has been noted that there is an increase in growth hormone secretion immediately following sleep onset in humans, which may be particularly beneficial to athletes who regularly participate in strenuous activities. Sleep also has a significant impact on a youngster’s psychological state. When the body is fully rested, it tends to have a greater overall sense of well-being. When allowed to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep, the body tends to be at its peak in terms of overall function.

The line between maximal exertion and over training is a fine one, and trainers and the exercisers must always take care not to cross it. Listen to your body. If it tells you it’s tired, give it what it needs. In most instances better nutrition, proper rest (especially sleep) and even an occasional day off will do the trick.

Ramakrishna, Sports Biomechanist, Sports performance enhancement specialist.