The Value of Recovery Days

Today’s contribution is from Amy Bush, Personal Trainer   When you think of working out, you typically think weight loss and muscle gain. Did you know the most important factor in muscle gain is actually when you’re not working out at all?  During workouts, muscle fibers are being broken down in order to rebuild as stronger, larger muscles. During rest, you’re regenerating new muscle fibers as well as providing nutrient delivery to those areas that were stressed during your workout. Recovery or “rest” days should therefore be spent using movement, not being sedentary. Opt for light activity so the body isn’t stressed, but still receives adequate blood flow. The biggest mistake people make in their training regimen is not taking enough rest days or being completely sedentary during recovery. Recovery is everything that happens after the end of one workout and before the start of the next one, including sleep. The CDC recommends 7-8 hours of sleep every night for adults. According to the Sleep Council, 9+ hours of sleep is optimal if you’re performing higher intensity workouts. In addition to sleep, there are other ways to aid in recovery. Mental and physical relaxation work hand-in-hand to ensure optimal rest and healing for the body. Activities that provide improvement in both areas include playing fetch with your dog, yoga, foam rolling, agility training, hiking and similar activies. So, how often is a recovery day necessary? ACSM suggests 1-2 days a week to allow the body to rest so that the next workout is performed at a 100% effort. Factors that determine how much recovery is needed are: current physical abilities, sleep habits, diet, and lifestyle outside of exercise.  If total body workouts are your concentration throughout your week, recovery days are not needed as frequently. If you are accustomed to working out for several consecutive days, it is smart to incorporate a recovery day or at least a lighter workout day every three to five days.