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The Importance of Rest and Recovery

The Importance of Rest and Recovery

Do you find it hard to take a rest day?

You’ve been to the gym 5 days in a row, your body is aching and your nervous system is shot.

But you’ve built momentum and don’t want to stop. More action, more results, right?

While the training piece is undeniably essential to improve performance, it’s through rest and recovery that we reap the benefits of training.

Today, we’re going to examine this in more detail and understand why it’s so important.

When you work out, the force applied to your muscles creates microtears in the tissues. Yes, you are literally tearing yourself apart when you train(1).

Surprisingly, this is a good thing. It invokes cells called fibroblasts to heal these tears, resulting in bigger and stronger muscles(1).

This beautiful process works to allow the body to adapt to handle the progresive increase demands being placed upon it over time (side note, this is why progressive overload is an important training parameter).

It’s during rest that your muscles recover and grow.

In addition, your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, which gets depleted when you exercise. As their primary fuel source, it’s essential that these stores have time to recover to fuel your next workout(2).

Another important consideration is injury prevention. Anyone who’s experienced a severe training injury can tell you that it’s one of the most frustrating things to recover from - you want to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

The most common injuries tend to occur in tendons and connective tissue, as they take longer to heal than muscles and tend to be subject to a lot of training volume. Repetitive strain occurs when these tissues don’t get adequate recovery time.

Finally, consider rest for optimal performance in the gym. Overtraining can cause your performance to plateau or even decrease. You could experience less strength, slower reaction times and less agility. I’m guessing these aren’t your training goals.

What might a rest day look like? Studies show that light movement such as walking improves blood flow and therefore recovery(3). You could try walking, light cardio, sauna / ice baths or some light stretching and mobility work on your rest days.

So don’t feel guilty about taking some time off. It’s super beneficial for optimal results over time.  Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. Happy resting. :)

References

Jensen, J., Rustad, P., Kolnes, A. and Lai, Y., 2011. The Role of Skeletal Muscle Glycogen Breakdown for Regulation of Insulin Sensitivity by Exercise. Frontiers in Physiology, 2.

Mendias, C., 2017. Fibroblasts take the centre stage in human skeletal muscle regeneration. The Journal of Physiology, 595(15), pp.5005-5005.

Takahashi, T. and Miyamoto, Y., 1998. Influence of light physical activity on cardiac responses during recovery from exercise in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 77(4), pp.305-311.

George Armstrong Weekly Workout 6th February 2022
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