Hello SOTGC community,
We live in a culture where phrases like “go hard or go home,” “work hard, party hard,” and “no pain, no gain,” are tossed around casually. And, yes, I sometimes like to use them as well! But if you speak to any fitness professional, they will tell you that recovery is a crucial part of any workout program. The term recovery, or rest, applies to the break you take between sets of exercises, to the sleep you get at night, to your nutrition, as well as to your rest days.
Let’s take a page from my book…. Although I worked out pretty hard for the last two years, I’ve seen noticeable shifts in body composition that I can trace back to a few key factors. One was when I started following a lifting program. The program was progressive, had me lifting 2-3 times a week and had very specific rest periods between sets of exercises. After following the program I noticed changes.
Within the last year I focused very hard on eating more vegetables at every meal. While this improved my overall nutrition and health (the proof is in my yearly doctor’s visits) what made a more noticeable difference was sleeping through the night! Yes, my youngest was sleeping through the night and I made it a goal to take full advantage of that rest and get to bed no later than 10 p.m. One day I turned around and was like, wow! I’m really doing this and it’s working because I can actually see the changes.
So let’s keep things simple and focus on those four as your strategies for better recovery and better results:
1 – Sleep
Setting aside time for sleep is just as important as allocating time for working out. This is especially important for professional women who are “on” all day long in demanding workplaces that expect you to be available 24/7. You need to set boundaries at work and boundaries for yourself at home to be a healthier and a better professional.
When you get adequate sleep, your muscles grow and recover – this is the time cells use to regenerate. When you are well rested, your food and beverage choices are smarter. You stop craving sugar to keep you awake and alert, you stop reaching for caffeine and making poor snack choices just to stay awake. In fact there was a recent study done about this here: http://q.equinox.com/articles/2012/03/sleep-appetite?emmcid=emm-newsletter-0824&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email%20member&utm_campaign=0824&emmcid=EMM-0824QWeekly8242015
I know you probably have a quite a few ways to counter my recommendation for getting enough sleep, but just give it a try and maybe one of my tips will work for you:
- If you can help it, don’t eat within two hours of bedtime.
- Set a limit for TV watching – pick 1-2 nights a week, otherwise, it’s not worth your time, it’s really not going to change your life!
- While you’re watching TV, do some gentle stretches. I like to do some simple twists and stretch my hips, which tend to be tight.
- Set a goal of when you want to be in bed. Once you are there, don’t check your email or get on your phone. Just take a few breaths and let it all go!
2 – Recover
Chances are you can’t get to the gym every day. And that is a good thing! Aim to strength train 2-3 times a week, and train hard. On your recovery days, stay active, but do something gentle or cardiovascular so your muscles can recover from the stress of strength training. Some good examples are yoga, pilates, a long run, a game of volleyball, or swimming. Staying active means you choose to walk when you can drive and take the stairs at work and do yoga and other activities that make you happy and keep you moving. Working out is a dedicated time to get stronger and push yourself 2-3 times a week. Know the difference and make it work for you.
3 – Rest between exercises
This one is a bit trickier. Depending on your goals, you need to rest a certain amount between exercises to make those exercises effective for you. Your energy systems kick in one by one as you begin exercising. Depending on the intensity of the exercise you use primarily one or another energy system (anaerobic, aerobic) and they each take a different amount of time to replenish. For example, if you are really pushing as hard as you can during a HIIT workout, you need to take at least 20 to 30 seconds to recover. And at that intensity you can only do so many in a row before your intensity decreases and your form breaks down. You will likely need 2-3 minutes to recover fully before completing additional sets. On the flipside, if you are looking to get stronger and performing compound lifts like deadlifts or squats at a very challenging weight, you may need to rest 3-5 minutes between sets. Or if you are running at an easy pace for one hour, you are also tapping a different system. Again, depending on your goal, the rest time for optimal results will vary, but having a particular goal, even for a month, will make your workouts more effective. This article goes into great detail and is worth the read if you are interested in learning more.
4 – Good Nutrition
Eating the right foods will help you recover better, as will timing your macros (proteins, carbs and fats), which is a topic for another day. The simplest recommendation is to include lots of vegetables, make sure you are hydrated, eat enough protein and fats to keep you satisfied and some fruit. After your strength training, having some protein and carbs will help your muscles recover (I enjoy a half serving of a protein shake with water and frozen blueberries). After a long run, you may find that you are not that hungry and that’s okay (depending on how long that run is) so make sure to hydrate first.
Try to incorporate at least one of these strategies in the next month and you may notice some positive changes. Share with your friends along with a tip on your favorite recovery foods, sleep tips, or gentle workouts. Here is one more reminder about the importance of sleep and recovery from ACE: http://www.acefitness.org/blog/5420/how-sleep-affects-your-weight-and-performance?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Health-eTips-07-15-2015&utm_content=Health+eTips&spMailingID=23048845&spUserID=NzU3NzY3NzU5NjYS1&spJobID=601373289&spReportId=NjAxMzczMjg5S0)
Stay active! And message me with questions.