by Olivier Pere, B.Econ, RMT
Whether you’re looking to run faster, get stronger, improve your overall health, or simply to look good, exercising regularly has been proven to be the best way to optimize your physical performance and improve your health.
For years, health experts have been recommending patients to exercise regularly not only to reduce risks of diseases, strokes, or even some type of cancer, but also to increase bone density, muscle strength, and improving mood and mental function.
When you exercise, your body undergoes micro-lesions due to constant muscular tension and repetitive motions causing stiffness. Dealing with muscle soreness is pretty common after an intense workout session which can lead to delayed onset soreness (DOMS) lasting from 3 to 5 days depending on the intensity of the workout and the level of the trainee. The pain you experience is a sign that your muscles have endured stress higher than usual and have worked harder (NHS, 2017). The body’s response to higher muscular stress, within a certain limit, of course, is to adapt, meaning that it will get stronger and more efficient to endure a similar type of exercise (Waehner, 2020). Once your body has learned how to cope with the stress it has gone through, you will less likely get sore the next time you do the same training. Even professional athletes experience muscle pain and soreness due to a progressive increase in their training.
To improve your health, you want your body to constantly adapt to newer/higher stress levels. At this point, you are probably wondering how do you get your body to adapt to the stress level and get stronger?
The answer to that question is in my opinion the most neglected and yet it is the most important part of the training program, and it is recovery.
Your muscles do not get stronger right at the same moment you are exercising. The workout is the initial stimulus that will create muscle micro-damage. Recovery is important because it is during that phase your body will heal and then get stronger. Many gym-goers have developed the mindset of “no pain no gain”. It is true to a certain extent but if muscular stresses are applied too often for too long and the body is not given enough time to heal, the micro-tears will not heal. They will grow, leading to more soreness, pain, inflammation, fatigue, and injuries.
A good recovery program will allow you to exercise at your optimal level and enhance your performance
Different factors such as age, workout intensity, number of training session per week, lifestyle can affect the recovery time which make it hard to give one solution to fit everyone. Approximately, it fluctuates between 24 hours to 96 hours after your training session (Rosenbrock, 2015).
Concerning what to do for recovery, the list is so long that I can make an entire blog post on it. There are some amazing High Tech tools out there that can speed up your recovery process but, in this post, I am just going to focus on those that I believe are the most fundamental.
- Adequate nutrition: Food is the fuel for our body and it’s important to make sure to have a sufficient amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat as well as minerals and vitamins to ensure proper recovery.
- Adequate hydration: The human body is on average 65% water. A lot of it is excreted through your pores when you are exercising. Water is required for many vital processes of the body, so It is important to make sure you are constantly sufficiently hydrated (Gudgeon, March).
- Proper sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. As a result, there is a decrease in testosterone which is a hormone responsible for muscle protein synthesis. It will also increase fatigue, leading to potential injuries (Gudgeon, March)
- Stretching: It will help decrease muscle tension, increase range of motion and blood circulation, improving your posture, and overall health (Athletixrehab, 2018).
- Massages: It always feels good to get a good massage especially after a long stressful week. An experiment conducted by scientists and published in the Science Translational Medicine have shown that massage decreases the production of cytokines, which regulates inflammations. The power study has also shown that massages stimulate the powerhouses in our cells called mitochondria which convert glucose into the energy required for repairing muscle cells (BAKALAR, 2012).
Similarly to your training, your recovery program should be tailored to your goals and needs, and it should match your level activity, so it is important to take a break, take a day off to pause and reconnect with yourself.
This post was written by Darren Gurr