One of the most overlooked concepts of a training program is the inclusion of recovery. The only way your body can adapt to all the hard work you put it through is during scheduled times of recovery.
Building recovery into your fitness plan can be tricky, but these tips will show you how to best schedule your days off from the gym.
Why is Recovery Important?
Recovery is when your body deals and adapts to all the work you put it through during a workout. While there are multiple facets of recovery, like recovery in-between sets and recovery in-between exercises, the most critical piece of recovery is scheduling off days and light workout days. Proper recovery will also benefit you in the long term by lowering your risk for injuries or burn out.
Most gym junkies live by the rule, “No days off,” but just because you’re not straining your body every day doesn’t mean you’re not improving.
By incorporating off days into your workout routine, you can ensure you are getting the absolute most out of your workouts. While time in the gym is key to improving physical function and building muscle, it can only work if your body also has the opportunity to recover. To do so, it needs time to rest.
When we work out, we cause the body to become fatigued, breaking down the muscle, stressing the cardiovascular system and all the other headaches we put ourselves through to become healthy. Sleep is usually where we see the recovery from these stressors. But as great as sleep is for recovery, other strategies can be built into your workout program to help aid the body’s attempt to recover and allow you to get the most out of those workouts.
Light Workout Days
The hardest part of ensuring adequate rest is walking the tight rope between stressing your body enough to build muscle, but not stressing it so much that you are wearing yourself down. This is where light workout days come in.
The biggest message to understand is that the use of recovery days should not become an excuse not to workout, but instead a day planned weeks in advanced. Typically, you want to include one recovery day per week. This ensures that you are providing a consistent stimulus to cause adaptations, but not over doing it. Ideally, your recovery day will follow your last workout of the week. But light training days can also be incorporated when you just aren’t feeling well or are worn down but still need to get in your workout. Use light training days towards the end of the week when you are most likely to be tired.
Remember, as you continually workout throughout the week, the body’s level of fatigue piles up. By building in a recovery or light workout day at the end of the week, you give yourself a buffer to handle all that wear and tear. While off days are a nice reset, light workout days also help to kick start the process.
It’s also important to keep in mind that every body is different. Whether you’re a morning miler, a triathlete, a yogi or a Crossfit champ, recovery is going to mean something different for you. If you’re looking for more insight into your body’s recovery, there are ways to track it.
For example, the WHOOP 2.0 strap, used by professional athletes and Olympians, is a fitness wearable designed specifically to monitor your body’s recovery and strain 24/7. It allows you to schedule your off days, light workout days and peak training days easier than before, thanks to its analytics. If you’re serious about maximizing your body’s gain, consider investing in a solid recovery tracker like the WHOOP.