Our bodies are machines that take fuel to function and maintenance to keep running smoothly. Like a machine, we require prevention measures to ensure that our bodies do not shut down and fail. Whether you are a beginner athlete or an elite athlete, workout recovery is required.

Chemical Reactions

In order to perform, our bodies use mainly glycogen and oxygen, along with a few other factors. Glycogen is a substance deposited in tissues and muscles and is a form of carbohydrates. When one starts exercising, glycogen is turned into glucose which allows muscle fibers to use it as fuel. On top of this, we also need more oxygen when working out; a physical sign of needing more oxygen is your heart rate increasing. This happens because your body is trying to pull more oxygen into your bloodstream. The oxygen that goes to your muscles helps turn the glucose mentioned above into ATP (the chemical reaction of glucose and oxygen). ATP releases energy, allowing you to exercise and functionally move. Once the workout is over, energy levels are depleted and tiny tears have formed in the muscles. Sounds scary right? No, it is the normal consequence of exercise and it is why we need recovery! Our bodies go through stress of the exercise regiment and have to adapt to the changes going on inside our bodies.

Types of Exercise

There are four types of exercising:

  • Strength
  • Cardiovascular
  • Mobility (flexibility)
  • Balance

The main ones are strength and cardiovascular, which include both mobility and balance. Without mobility and balance, it would be much more difficult to perform strength and cardio exercises.

Strength exercises increase muscle mass, muscular endurance, and strength. Weights (or body weight) are used in pushing and pulling movements such as squatting and deadlifts. There are many benefits to this type of exercise including:

  • Increase in bone strength
  • Increase lean mass
  • Improve bodily functions
  • Protect against chronic disease

Cardiovascular training on the other hand, is heavily aerobic-focused. Cardio workouts train your heart and breathing rate, as well as improving your use of oxygen. Some benefits of cardiovascular training are:

  • Strengthen the heart
  • Increase lung capacity
  • Reduce risk of heart attack
  • Protect against chronic disease

Whichever you choose, both have benefits that will improve your overall health and quality of life. With that being said, you must learn how to take care of your body so that all of the hard work does not damage instead of improving.

What is recovery?

Recovery is defined as regaining possession of something. In this case, we are regaining the fuel that our bodies used up during exercise to return our bodies back to the normal state.

Can you think of any ways to recover?

Ways to recover

You may be familiar with the typical pre/post workout methods of recovery. However, there are many factors that some people do not realize are affecting their training. Below we will do an in-depth covering of recovery. Maybe you already utilize some of these, but if not, these little tweaks to your routine can make the biggest difference in performance.

  • Sleep: most people know that sleep is important, but exactly how much sleep is necessary to recover your body? REM sleep, the sleep that affects the brain, gives the brain and body energy. When sleep is cut short, our bodies and brains are not regaining the energy that was lost during a workout. This leaves us unrepaired, sluggish, and dysfunctional. Most athletes need anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep, on average. Elite athletes should be aiming for the higher end of the sleep spectrum, but for those of us who are exercising to improve overall health and quality of life most likely aim for the 7-8.5 hour range (due to work schedules, etc.).
  • Hydrate: during exercise, many fluids are lost through perspiration (sweating). In order to gain those fluids that were lost, water consumption should be increased from the normal half-gallon (eight, 8-ounce glasses). Many athletes should be aiming for at least a gallon per day. Doing this not only replaces the fluids, but it also helps your body maintain balance and keeps everything inside running more smoothly.
  • Manage Inflammation: muscle soreness is almost inevitable because of the stress and tears that your muscles are going through. Some ways to reduce inflammation are rest, applying heat and ice, and taking an anti-inflammatory. However, research is continuously showing that popular anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen hurt your body in the long run. The way that anti-inflammatories are metabolized cause damage to the liver and kidneys. One way that people are finding relief for pain through a natural alternative to medications is through CBD oil. Humans have an endocannabinoid system that is responsible for regulating and balancing your bodily systems. CBD stimulates this endocannabinoid system, and as a result pain and inflammation are reduced.
  • Stretch: stretching before and after a workout can help flush out lactic acid (acid formed in muscles during workouts) and also improve circulation and mobility. When stretching before a workout though, be sure to warm your muscles up a little bit so that you are not pulling cold muscles. Think of it as a rubber band: it is easier to stretch after you have been stretching it for a while! Stretching aids in avoiding the muscles becoming too tight and therefore shortened, leading to possible weakness and pain.
  • Nutrition: even if you are not tracking your food intake, it is still important to know what you are putting in your body. A good rule-of-thumb when thinking about nutrition is to aim for 80% nutrient-filled foods, leaving 20% for fun foods (icecream, pizza, donuts, whatever suits your fancy). On top of this, make sure you are not cutting out/restricting a variety of food groups. This will lead to a loss of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. With exercise, it is not uncommon for someone to undereat. This could be due to unawareness of how much food your body requires, or a schedule that leads to forgetting to eat. Not getting enough food intake will put a damper on your body’s ability to recover. For example, not getting enough protein can lead to a decrease in muscle and bone health. Nutrition is flexible for each and every individual, so it is important to find what works best for you!

Important for all People

Again, whether you are a beginner athlete or an elite athlete, a high quality recovery routine is necessary. Doing so allows your body to return back to its normal state, after regaining all that was lost. We listed some of the methods of recovery, but do not forget that there is an abundance of ways that you can improve your performance no matter what level of exercising you are on.