October 05, 2018
There is no doubt that regular exercise is an important component of any wellness routine. Working out has a multitude of benefits, including improved heart function, strengthened bones and joints, increased energy, improved mood, and better sleep. And although it is important to remain active, it is equally important to get the rest you need and deserve after periods of intense physical activity.
When over-performing at the gym or participating in intensely rigorous activity on a daily basis, you increase your risk for injury. Excessive exercise that’s not followed by a proper recovery period may also result in fatigue, poor sleep, loss of appetite, decreased immune response, and a general decrease in physical performance.
To combat these potential problems, it’s important to make sure that you’re not overworking your system. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get around 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week. This can be broken down into five days of moderate activity, or three days of vigorous exercise.
Factors like training intensity, age, and physical history determine exactly how long your body needs to recover after a workout. As a general rule of thumb, however, fitness experts recommend a minimum of 48 hours to recover, with full recovery seen within 72 to 96 hours post-workout.
Resting after high-intensity activities like marathons, including annual events like the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, is especially critical. After a long-distance run, your leg muscles will be overworked and will experience tissue damage or “micro tears,” which can only be rebuilt through rest and recovery.
To recuperate after a marathon or other intensely physical activity, focus on sleep. Sleep deprivation, even in small doses, can impair both workout intensity and your recovery. Make sleep a priority and be sure to invest in quality sleep — in other words, get out the good blankets and curl up on a quality mattress to ensure a proper, restful slumber.
While it may be tempting to reward yourself with a celebratory mimosa or two, avoid alcohol when you’re in post-workout mode. Alcohol introduces a number of harmful toxins into your system, impeding your muscles’ ability to heal and grow. Focusing on hydration in the days following robust activity is important, as you need to replace the fluids you lost during exercise.
Many professional athletes swear by ice baths for their rejuvenating benefits. Cold exposure after a hard workout can reduce tissue swelling and inflammation, but taking the plunge is not exactly a pleasant experience. If you want to reap the benefits without fully immersing your body in a tub of ice cold water, try contrast hydrotherapy, a practice that involves alternating between hot and cold water to repeatedly constrict and dilate your blood vessels, ridding your system of waste and toxins. The process is simple: take a warm shower for one full minute followed by a 30-second blast of cold water, then repeat.
If you want to add a touch of luxury to your recovery day, opt for a muscle-soothing massage. Research shows that post-workout massage can reduce exercise-induced inflammation — and it feels great, too.
Taking time to rest and recover after strenuous physical activity is crucial to your overall well-being. When in doubt, listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you want the physique of a Roman deity, you’ve got to take your time. Engineering a workout routine that works for you, while taking steps to avoid injury, will ensure you’re able to exercise for years to come.