Make rest and recovery a part of your fitness program

What is recovery?
When following any type of training program, one of the most important aspects of that program is the planned rest and recovery necessary to achieve maximum gains. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. Everybody can see and feel the benefits of training hard in weights or aerobics, but the benefits of proper rest and recovery are slightly less tangible. Proper recovery allows the body to repair muscle and connective tissue broken down during training as well as restore depleted energy stores. In addition, adequate recovery permits full restoration and increase in energy producing enzymes in muscles.

Rest between sets
The amount of rest necessary between sets varies depending on the type of exercises being performed, the individual performing it and the goal of the training program. The rest interval between sets allows for the recovery of the anaerobic energy systems and determines what amount of the lactic acid produced during exercise will be removed. Lactic acid build up in muscles inhibits muscle contractions. Larger athletes, with more muscle mass will require more rest time for adequate recovery. The table below shows recommended rest intervals based on repetitions and intensity of the sets.
Reps / Intensity Rest                           Interval Between Sets
Per Set
1-2 / 105 – 95%                                                      3 – 5 min
3-5 / 95 – 85%                                                        3 – 4 min
6-8 / 85 – 75%                                                        1 – 3 min
10-12+ / 75 – 60%                                               30 secs – 1 min

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 athletes and coaches change their training program throughout the year

Rest and recovery post workouts
Through the course of a workout, your body becomes depleted of vital fluids and nutrients. Everything used must be replaced so that the body can heal and be prepared 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 abosrption of glucose from the blood, to replace depleted glycogen stores. Also, protein is needed for repair of damaged muscle tissue as well as its role in the interactive effect on insulin secretion.

Another important factor affecting recovery between workouts is sleep. Due to the ever-increasing rate at which our society lives, majority of us suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder or sleep deprivation. 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 vigorous activities. Sleep also has a significant impact on an individual’s psychological state. When we are fully rested we tend to have a greater overall sense of well-being. When the body is allowed to get 7 – 9 hrs of sleep, the body tends to be at its peak in terms of overall function.

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

The author is a Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist

Also read:
Water exercises for fitness
What’s the ideal body composition?
Foods that improve sporting performance

Image: Flickr creative commons Darcy norman