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Why Recovery Is So Important?

recovery Dec 13, 2021

Training is a constant balancing act between stress and recovery. We stress the body during workouts and break it down. Then we build it back up during recovery. But many people don’t realize the importance of recovery. Instead, they believe that if they’re not pushing hard every day, they’re not reaping the maximum benefits. 


Although the adage, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is absolutely true, it’s critical to understand that your body doesn’t change if you don’t recover from the challenge.


That’s why the 80/20 approach to running is vital. We should only be stressing our bodies 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent should be spent recovering it. 


Breaking it down


When we run at a high intensity or do a hard strength workout, we create micro tears in our muscles. And far from being a bad thing, that’s actually the goal. We want to cause these micro tears so our body will repair the muscles to be stronger than they were before. That way, if our body encounters that same load again, it will be ready for it. That’s how we get better.


That repair work only happens if we let our bodies recover from the tears we’ve caused. But understanding the importance of incorporating recovery into your training is just one part of it. It’s also critical to understand that recovery is a broad term, and there’s a big difference between passive and active recovery.


Passive recovery is a rest day. It’s when you don’t do much, relax the body and really give it a day off. Active recovery, in contrast, can vary. It can range from yard work to a long walk to non-impact cardio, like swimming or yoga. The key is how difficult the activity feels, or the effort level you experience when performing it.


If you don’t usually swim, for example, and decide to try it as a form of recovery, you might end up stressing the body more than you think. Because your body isn’t used to that kind of activity, it challenges different muscles groups. All of a sudden, your recovery activity just became a stressful workout and the gains you were looking to achieve are gone. Not only that, but the tiny tears can continue to break down and turn into painful injuries.


Recovery tips


In addition to scheduling recovery into your training plan and ensuring your effort levels stay low, there are tips you can use to recover well.


  1. Hydrate


Water helps move nutrients through the body. When you don’t drink enough water, the delivery of nutrients to the muscles slows down, which, in turn, slows down recovery. 


  1. Refuel 


After a workout, the body is primed to absorb nutrients. It uses carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen and amino acids from proteins to repair muscle tissue.


  1. Sleep


If your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it isn’t able to complete the steps required for muscle repair and recovery. The amount of sleep each person needs varies, but shooting for somewhere between seven and nine hours a night is generally a good bet.  


  1. Stretch


Not stretching after a workout can lead to muscle stiffness and fatigue. After a workout, you can do a combination of static and active stretching, whichever one feels best for you.  Focus on the quads, calves, hips and hamstrings, as well as the back.  Listen to your body and move through those joints or body parts that may feel a bit stiff to loosen them up after your run.  Actively moving and stretching throughout the body is key.


Some people use aids, like icing, massage, compression sleeves and pain relievers, to speed up recovery. But they can circumvent the adaptation process, which means cutting short the time the body needs to rebuild itself to be stronger than it was before. If you just finished your goal race — a full or half marathon, for example, that you’ve spent months training for — then that may be fine with you. But if you’re using aids to recover from hard workouts leading up to a goal race, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors. You can actually decrease the adaptations that your body would normally make without them, so your workouts actually aren’t as beneficial.  


Like effort, recovery is personal. It’s up to you to determine what you want to get out of it and set your goals accordingly.


Now get out there and run your life.


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