If you want to get fitter, you have to train more, right? Wait, because the conversation isn’t this simple. Unbeknownst to some people, training is when you break your muscles down. However, rest is what builds them up. You can’t be fit without having both of these things, which is why recovery for athletes is paramount.
What Training Does to Your Muscles
To understand why recovery for athletes is so important, it helps to know a bit more about what happens to your tissues when you exercise.
When you do an intense strength training session, it causes microscopic tears in the fibers and connective tissues of your muscles. This is why fitness experts will most often suggest strength training/weightlifting over cardio if you’re looking to get stronger and lean out. This type of training targets muscles in a way that traditional cardio has a harder time accomplishing.
Recovery is Where the Rebuild Happens
When you recover, you give your body a chance to adapt to the stress that you put it through with exercise. During this process, your tissue repairs and your muscles are replenished with more glycogen — their energy stores.
Fitness creates microtears. Recovery allows them to heal. This is how we grow muscle and get stronger and leaner. You’ll hear some people refer to this as “muscle hypertrophy.”
Recovery for athletes can take anywhere from a few days to roughly a week.
If you’re still having a hard time wondering why recovery for athletes is so necessary, let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t do it.
The Consequences of Overtraining Syndrome
Since recovery allows those microtears to heal, a lack of recovery can make the tears grow. As a result, your muscles become inflamed and swollen, and you can experience more fatigue than you normally would.
When taken to an extreme, all of this can result in overtraining syndrome, which is exactly what is sounds like. But it’s not as straightforward as simply going a little too hard in the gym. When you consistently stress your system and don’t give it adequate time to recover, the symptoms can be serious — and scary. We’re talking things like:
- A weakened immune system
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Decreased motivation
- Mood swings
- Getting sick more than normal
- Frequent injuries
- Trouble sleeping
- Declining performance in the gym
In other words, an athlete’s attempts to improve in the gym (by unintentionally going overboard) can significantly backfire.
Overtraining can take a serious toll mentally, physically, and emotionally. Recovery for athletes is mandatory not just to see improvement in training but also for your general health and wellbeing.
4 Tips for Recovery for Athletes
When you make recovery a priority and incorporate it into your everyday routine, staying healthy and strong is easy. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Mind Your Macros
Fitness is one half of the equation; nutrition is the other. You need both in order to achieve all of your goals in the gym.
Make sure you get an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your body demands all three to function properly.
Especially right after a workout, aim to get some protein and carbs in sooner rather than later. Your muscles are working their hardest and are hungry for that fuel. Many athletes keep it simple with a protein shake and a quick snack like a banana.
You already know this is important. But what you might not know is that hydration and recovery are inextricably linked.
Water helps to lubricate your joints, encourages quality sleep, it carries nutrients to your cells, and it plays an important role in your heart’s ability to pump blood.
How much water you need will be unique to you, as it varies based on a number of factors, like your training, body size, and the climate you live in. One ounce per pound of bodyweight is becoming an increasingly popular rule of thumb.
If you want to make the most of your recovery, then drink up.
Try Active Recovery
When a lot of us think of recovery, our minds go straight to a day or two on the couch watching Netflix. Everyone is different, so that might very well be the type of recovery that you need.
However, athletes often find that they fare better with active recovery. Active recovery refers to very low-intensity exercise.
This might mean going for a brisk walk, doing yoga, going for a swim, or spending a little time on the rower.
The science behind active recovery says that it helps encourage and speed up recovery because it aids in clearing the accumulation of blood lactate — although the rate at which this happens will depend on the intensity of your active recovery.
However, experts largely agree that some sort of low-intensity activity can help you make the most of your rest day.
Use Electric Muscle Stimulation
Electric muscle stimulation (sometimes called EMS) can be your most trusted companion both at the gym and while you rest. It can help to reduce muscle soreness and even prevent injury. Plus, it can speed up the recovery process so that you can feel your best and get back to the gym.
Recovery isn’t the only time you should use electric muscle stimulation, though. In a real two birds, one stone scenario, you can also use EMS while you train. It helps to warm up your muscles (and thus prevent injury), increase blood circulation, and improve muscle strength and endurance.
Thanks to what it can do for you inside and out of the gym, electric muscle stimulation can trigger a noticeable improvement in performance.
We know that it can be tempting to just hit the gym harder when you want to see bigger results, but we can’t stress this enough: Recovery for athletes is non-negotiable. Just like exercise and proper nutrition, recovery, rest, and sleep should be a priority in improving fitness and maintaining good health.
To do this, get the macros your body needs, stay hydrated, try experimenting with active recovery, and use electric muscle stimulation to encourage recovery, mobility, and strength-building.
Learn more about how you can avoid overtraining syndrome and enhance performance.
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