Why Recover?

Why Recover?

Guest Post by Suzanne

from Workout Nirvana

I’m happy to be back on Lisa’s blog – we go way back! She’s rocked my online personal training program and even demonstrated her squat for me on the streets of downtown Portland. I was excited when she asked me to guest post on the subject of recovery, a subject I feel passionate about.

I spent years training my heart out without thinking much about recovery. Even though I had nagging injuries and frustratingly slow progress, I just couldn’t force myself to back off my frequent weightlifting sessions – I just loved them too much.

It wasn’t until I became a fitness trainer that I realized that we train hard to recover, not the other way around. Since then, I’ve had fewer injuries and better progress. While recovery is a complex subject and varies greatly from person to person, it’s important to understand how it fits into your training routine.



Why Recover

With any type of training, your central nervous system, muscles, connective tissue, and joints are stressed by exercising. The only way to get stronger, bigger, faster, and better is to let your body recover and adapt while glycogen stores are replenished and muscle tissue is repaired (among many other processes).

Unfortunately, without adequate recovery and rest, two bad things are likely to happen: (1) repetitive stress injuries and/or (2) stalled progress.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

If you push your body repetitively without letting it recover sufficiently, your body can become weakened and overstressed. If you’ve ever had tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, or patellar tendinitis, you understand this all too well.

Stalled Progress or Performance

When you work out while your neuromuscular system is still in a stressed state, your body simply can’t perform at its best. Your body improves by continually adapting, so if you overtrain there’s no time for your body to build muscle or achieve a higher level of conditioning or strength.



How Long Should You Recover?

Recovery days should be scheduled into your week just like your workouts. You need to look at ALL your activities as one big picture instead of conveniently forgetting to include that one class or activity.

Resting Between Workouts

How long you rest between workouts depends on many factors – your age, the intensity of your workout, whether you’re training for an event, your other activities, and more. Generally, the less intense your workout, the less time you need to recover. But since this is subjective, having a set schedule is the safest bet.

By the way, if you’re terribly sore you may need to add a day in between your workouts (heat and massage can relieve soreness but won’t speed recovery).

Handling Multiple Activities

If you’re thinking of increasing your activity level – adding a class, starting personal training sessions, training for an event – there’s one rule you should remember:

When you add something, you have to take something away.

You simply can’t keep adding activities without eventually burning out physically. If you’re not already exercising, then add activities slowly and work up to higher intensities.

It’s smart to schedule intense running or cycling sessions and lower-body strength training sessions on different days, otherwise your performance will definitely suffer in one or both areas. In fact, it can take well over 24 hours to from recover from an intense running session, so you might want to think twice about heavy squats the very next day.

If you lift weights three or four times a week on top of other resistance-based activities else (CrossFit, boot camps, etc.), you might be burning the candle at both ends. All of these activities tax your neuromuscular system, and you need at least 48 to 72 hours between strength workouts. (I talk more about strength-training recovery here.)

Resting Within a Training Cycle

Cycling low- and high-intensity period of training (called periodization) is a must to allow your body to adapt and recover fully and then come back strong in peak condition. All it takes is a little planning. There’s lots of ways to alternate high/low intensity:

  • 3 weeks high / 3 weeks light to moderate (repeat)

  • 1 week high / 1 week light to moderate (repeat)

  • 1 session high / 1 session light to moderate (repeat)

You get the picture – you want to vary the intensity of your training so that your body isn’t under constant assault. Not only that but you’ll perform better in the long run.

On your rest days, use active rest to facilitate recovery and promote cardiorespiratory health, such as walking, cycling, rowing, or swimming.

Putting It All Together

Along with allowing time between your workouts and cycling the intensity, don’t underestimate the importance of these factors in recovery:

  • Sleep

  • Proper nutrition

  • Proper form

  • Cross training

Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. I love helping people get bigger, stronger, and more powerful!



Suzanne Digre is a NASM-certified personal trainer who leads online training groups now open for registration: Fierce Definition (12 Weeks to Muscle Definition that Makes People Look Twice) and Lean & Strong. With over 15 years of lifting experience, Suzanne writes at workoutnirvana.com, where she shares her passion for and expertise in strength training and clean eating.

Suzanne loves to connect on social media. Find her on: TwitterFacebookGoogle+YouTube.

Mental and Physical Break Part 1

After noticing some weird body aches on my Rest Days I realized it might be time for a “reset.” I have a steady workout routine that doesn’t change much (the activities change but the amount doesn’t change) but sometimes you just need a break.

I take 2 Rest Days a week but I split them up. Lately my workouts were feeling uninspired. That in combination with body aches makes me think I might be over-training.

Signs You May Need a Break

  • Fatigue or physical exhaustion
  • Soreness that won’t go away
  • Dreading your workouts
  • Poor performance
  • You’re not able to progress in your workouts
  • You feel unmotivated or bored
  • Injury or illness

I wouldn’t say yes to most of those. I do have some soreness and boredom. Either way, a mini break can’t hurt anything.  I need to break out of this plateau. Change my routine. Change things up. Reset my body.

Most athletes regularly schedule a week off from activities every 8-12 weeks.

“One major factor that is often forgotten is RECOVERY! Recovery is vital for the body to continue making progress, whether it is muscle gain, fat loss, or both. Not only do we have to recover physically from one work out to the next, but also mentally. Even though we take days off from the gym a couple times a week, after weeks and weeks of pounding our bodies, we may require more than one or two days. That is why the training technique, or should I say “non” training technique, of taking a week off can be what your body needs to break your plateaus and spark your body into better gains and faster progress.” (source)

So for three days I did a Detox of sorts:

  • First, I didn’t go to the gym. The only activity was walking.
  • Second, might as well do my sugar detox that I planned on doing for November!


Day One was easy. Day One was basically a rest day. It feels no different than a normal rest day. It was a good reset for my brain and body. The challenge will be the rest of the days. I never take more than 2 days off in a row unless I’m sick. So the third day will be weird.

How I Did: I was fine. After 4 days of working out a day off was needed anyway. Like I said, Day One would be easy. I did not eat any candy! I made it through the day without being tempted, either. I did chew on some gum at work but when the urge to snack hit me Monday afternoon I drank some peppermint tea instead.

How I Felt Physically: I felt tired and run-down.  I don’t know if that was due to it being a Monday, Daylight Savings time, or it being a rest day but I was just tired.

How I Felt Mentally: Mentally I was really glad I was taking a break. Mentally I felt drained and wasn’t looking forward to the gym, so that was a good sign to me that I needed the break.

It was nice to have a night off. I had a good evening out with a friend too!


How I Did: I most definitely needed day two. At first I was starting to feel guilty for taking time off and “slacking” from my schedule but my body hurt.

How I Feel Physically: My body hurt. I don’t know if they were phantom pains or if my body is actually worn down. Who knows? All I know is that I had body aches I couldn’t explain and I was glad I didn’t have to work out. I was also famished. The hunger levels were high all day long and I never really felt satisfied.

How I Feel Mentally: I felt relieved to have another rest day. The idea of going to the gym did not appeal to me.

What I Did: I read a book. In my free time I read this book:

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell. She’s the author of “Julie and Julia“–which I LOVED. I loved her first book, it inspired me to want to try more adventurous dishes in the kitchen and I really enjoyed the movie. It was charming and romantic. Cleaving? Not so much. I did not like the book at all, honestly. It was lacking all of the charm and romance of the first book. Her story was about infidelity and butchering meat. Great topics, right? I kept trying and trying to get into it but she made herself SO unlikable to me I didn’t really care what her story was about. Bummer.

I also started a new book: Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest. Creepy!


I also did some accessorizing. I have a ton of jewelry but rarely wear them anymore because I’m usually heading to the gym after work (or biking to work). It’s just not something I think about doing anymore. Well, not having to go to the gym for a few days I started rotating through my necklaces and earrings.

Michael commented that he liked my “accessorizing” lately–that it was feminine and romantic. I guess I’ve been doing the “gym rat chic” a little too much lately, huh? 🙂

Next challenge: Day three…

QUESTION: Do you ever take a break like this? What did you notice?