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.

Stronger Than I Think I Am

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What I love most about Suzanne’s weight programs she’s designed for me is the self confidence it gives me. I always always always leave the gym feeling stronger than I did when I walked in. It’s expected now. It makes me feel powerful and happy.

One of my favorite new moves that Suzanne sent me is the Weighted Plank Pulls. This move is HARD. Seriously. Not only are you doing a plank with only one hand, but you’re trying to stay in the same position while you pull the weight back and then forward again. This is a killer ab workout. My body is usually shaking by the last few reps!

Another new one for me is the Eccentric Incline Pushup. She has me doing this to “failure,” meaning you do the exercise as many times as you can before your muscles just give out. So far my “failure” for pushups is 10. I’m hoping as the weeks go on that number goes up a lot more.

She also suggested I start doing this triceps stretch during my cool down session. This isn’t a new move for me, but it’s definitely one I neglect. I am pretty good about stretching after my workouts now (too many injuries woke me up to that!) but for some reason I always forget to stretch the upper body too!

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The other night I went to Body Pump. I’ve been trying to go again once a week. In the last two months I’ve been half a dozen times or so. I’m not currently doing a program from Suzanne and just needed a change up in my workout routine and schedule. While it’s sometimes difficult for me to make it to class, I’m always glad I go. Even when I’m hobbling around for days afterwards!

So last night at Body Pump there was a new teacher and he was much harder than the others. I don’t know why, it’s basically the same routine every time, but for some reason it was more challenging. There were several moments in the class when my muscles were shaking and sweat was dripping down my forehead that I wanted to quit. He said “You came here for a reason, WORK IT!” And I reminded myself, of COURSE this is going to be hard, that’s why I’m here! The challenge is good for me mentally and physically. The difficult workout gets me out of my rut, pushes my body to the limits and it MAKES ME STRONGER.

The next night I went to Spin class. I went back a few weeks ago for the first time in over a year. The first time I had some knee discomfort–difficult to say if it was pain because I am so hyper sensitive now! I took a few weeks off from spin and went back again. I told the teacher before class that I might leave half way through and told her it was due to an injury. I hate leaving a class mid-way through because I feel like it’s rude and disruptive. She said that was okay.

The class was challenging but unlike last month, I took it easy and didn’t try to burn out right at the beginning of the class! The session was all hill climbs. I went easy on the resistance (I still added resistance, just not as much as I’d normally do) and there were a lot of standing climbs, which also helped. This time I made it through 45 minutes of class.

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As I left early the instructor said at least I made it longer than half way and she was right! I did what I could at the time and listened to my body when it was time to go. My knees were feeling okay during class, after class and the next day. I’m hoping that next time I go I can stay for the full hour!

Every day I get stronger and stronger. I can feel the weight lifting sculpting and shaping my body and as I walk around I can feel the difference it makes in my knees. Dare I say, my knees are getting happier?