Regardless of whether you’re a first-time gym-goer, or a competing athlete, it is essential to schedule rest days into your routine. During rest periods your body will adapt and muscles will repair, which is a necessary if you want to gain strength and stamina in the gym. Whilst this might sound counterproductive, it is essential to your fitness progression – but how exactly does it help? And what can you do to aid the process?
Why are rest days so important?
Exercise, particularly weight training, causes tiny tears in muscle tissue, which allows them to expand. This is likely to result in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), where you experience mild aches and pains a day or two after an intense workout. These muscle tears and the associated aches are not problematic, in fact, it shows that you have been pushing yourself. However, failure to give your body enough time to repair itself can result in more severe injuries, that can prevent you from doing any training at all. As you become fitter, and your muscles begin to adapt, you will find that you become more resilient to your training, this is a good indication that it’s time to mix up your routine – challenging yourself is key to progression, but it’s still important to leave enough time for rest and recovery.
Why you should have a consistent stretching routine
After exercise, your body produces lactic acid, which is one of the causes of those dreaded DOMS, a thorough stretch after your workout will help to eliminate the excessive acid which will lessen the post-gym muscle aches. This is just one of the many benefits of stretching, it can also improve flexibility, posture, and blood flow, which all contribute to your gym performance. When done properly, holding stretches for at least 30 seconds, a consistent routine reduces the risk of injury.
How long does recovery take?
The suggested rest period after an intense workout is 48 hours, however, everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some experts advise that low-intensity activity, after a gruelling weights session, like swimming, or walking/ jogging, can encourage your muscles to relax, which can aid recovery. To speed up recovery, and prevent injury some things you can do are: stretch; foam roll your muscles; yoga/ Pilates; and of course, adapt your nutrition. When it comes to recovery, the key thing to remember is to listen to your own body and to respond appropriately – no two people are the same!
How can your diet speed up recovery?
You should refuel your body with nutritionally rich foods after any workout, as this will help the repair process. Protein rich foods are essential for muscle growth and repair, things like oily fish, nuts, eggs, and leafy greens are all beneficial for different reasons, but adopting a well-balanced diet is arguably the most important thing. Supplements like Peak Aminos are particularly helpful for individuals who frequently strength train, as they support protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth and recovery. You may also want to consider using a protein powder to dramatically increase your protein intake, which is necessary for building lean muscle and repairing the fibres post-exercise.
Is sleep important?
Sleep can be overlooked, especially in the bodybuilding world, but there is nothing like a good night’s sleep for replenishing your body and mind. In fact, failure to get a good night’s rest can negatively impact your results – even if your maintaining a consistent workout routeing and sticking to your diet. During sleep, your body produces growth hormones, protein synthesis, energy is restored, and so are brain cells. 8 – 10 hours is optimal, but once again it really is a case of listening to your body.