Suzanne from Workout Nirvana

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

After 12 Weeks…

It’s been 12 weeks since I first signed up with Suzanne to transform my body through a rigorous weight lifting program. (The follow-up to Phase 1 is here.) Before I signed up with Suzanne, I lifted weights a lot but I didn’t do any specific plans that were structured–I just did machines and moves that I enjoyed–and thus, I didn’t see much by way of results. I never understood WHY I wasn’t seeing more results on my own. I’m really glad I signed up for this training program.

The first 6 weeks of the program, I saw and felt immediate changes. I also had a 4 week span of NO KNEE PAIN. I attribute that to the weight training targeting my glutes. Sadly, I had another flare-up of knee pain and ended up having to take 6 weeks off from lower body workouts.

The good news: I did not see any negative effects by not doing lower body workouts. I signed up with Suzanne for another 6 weeks, this time tailored to what my doctor specifically said to avoid. She did a great job with that. Two weeks into Phase 2 I was back to HAPPY KNEES! YAY!

This post is the conclusion of Phase 2 with measurements and a weight in. But first, I want to discuss the improvements I felt with this program.

Happy Knees

Yep, they were so much better when I spent my workouts lifting weights. The fact that the flare-ups went away twice (phase 1 and in phase 2) just reiterates that. I think the activities I was doing strengthened my muscles, improved my balance a great deal, and boosted my confidence. I’ve been cycling a few times now and my knees are happier, not cured entirely, but better.

Swimming

With weightlifting 3 days a week, I had to drop one swim day because I wanted to add a yoga night. Only swimming once a week had me worried that I’d lose my swimming fitness and cardio fitness.  The opposite seemed to happen. With each week of weight lifting I noticed that I could swim faster than ever before.

Another benefit I noticed was that I was able to do the backstroke! This is a stroke I’ve NEVER been a fan of and didn’t do it on a regular basis. It was hard, I had a hard time staying afloat on my back, I had a hard time going very fast, and I struggled to swim in a straight line. Which is the complete opposite of how I am with all other swimming strokes. It was frustrating that I was so deficient in this.

I started including the backstroke in my routine because I had to give up the breaststroke for 6 weeks of rest (that move aggravated my knees). I was SHOCKED at how I could suddenly do the backstroke effortlessly. Seriously–I was like a rockstar in the pool doing the backstroke! I know that it has to do with strengthening my core with Suzanne’s program. What else could it be? That’s the only thing that has changed. I was so happy and now I include the backstroke in every session. I’m almost as fast at the backstroke as I am doing freestyle!

Stronger

I definitely feel stronger now than I did 12 weeks ago. I see muscle development in places I didn’t see it before. I have triceps muscles! I have sculpted shoulders! I feel proud and confident and want to wear sleeveless shirts all summer. 🙂

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Of course this is the part of the post where I show the progress photos. I always feel like I look more like this:

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Than a graceful, attractive “after” pose. 😉 Oh well!

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Like with the first program I bought, I liked the fact that I had a plan whenever I went into the gym. It’s sometimes daunting to figure out what to do in the gym and I don’t know about you, but I tend to get stuck in a rut and just do the same things over and over again. Then I wonder why I don’t see results.

I’ve started Phase 1 over again in the interim. I want to sign up with Suzanne again but it might end up waiting until this fall. I’d like to take advantage of the nice summer weather and get outside. My hope is that I can bike and/or hike at least once a week while I rehab.

I saw a new specialist a few weeks ago, who was much better than the first one, and I’ve been doing the things she suggested. I also see the new PT she recommended next week. I’m kind of burned out on physical therapy and hopefully I can just go to this one appointment, get a bunch of exercises and then be done with going to the doctor for awhile.

So there’s the update. I definitely recommend Suzanne’s programs. I am happy with the improvements I’ve seen!

QUESTION: What are your summer fitness goals?