Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something:  The balance of Work and Recovery

When it comes to staying fit and maintaining a healthy joint system, you have to divy up your training time into segments of training work and recovery work. For most people, training days seem to take precedence over anything else, because obviously, that is what matters because that is where the results are driven from, right. Think again!! The recovery days are pretty important to the success of reaching your goals too. Recovery days are days that you spend time doing mobility/stretching routines, and this can be in a class setting or performing self guided stretch sessions. These days are important because the stretching helps your worked and tired muscles to recover and relax in preparation for the next work session they will undergo. Constantly overloading your muscles and joints  with external forces like dumbbells, bands, and machines, along with higher intensity activities like spin, running, and plyometric workouts leaves your muscles tight and fatigued; your muscles need some assistance in fully relaxing and returning to their non contracted state. This is where the recovery days come in;  if you don’t perform necessary stretching, your muscles will remain in a tight position and will be hindered from  fully contracting and relaxing which is what they need to be able to do in order for effective and optimal performance. A tight muscle is a muscle under stress; stressed muscles lead to inflammation; inflammation leads to poor circulation; poor circulation leads to under oxygenated muscles. To give you a basic understanding of how your muscles work, think of a set of bars, one set on the left and one set on the right. Picture these sets of bars sliding over one another with each left and right bar becoming an entire stacked bar system (use your fingers to act out this bar sliding action); now visualize that set of bars pulling apart from one another to go back to the normal position.  This is how your muscles contract and relax. The contraction is when the bars/muscle fibers slide across one another to create the strength you need to lift something, and when the bars/muscle fibers pull apart is when the muscle goes back to the relaxed position. When that bar system/muscle fibers is tight, the bars/muscle fibers pull apart but not completely. Over time, if you do not stretch, the bars/muscles fibers will  return to the relaxed position less and less, and this is when pains and injuries start to occur. Various forms of stretching and recovery work allows your muscles to relax and your blood circulation to be optimal allowing your red blood cells to get the necessary oxygen to the muscles. Some things you can add into your rest days are:

  1.  Yoga classes. Tried and true, yoga is a great way to add in recovery sessions. But know that every yoga class isn’t ideal for a recovery day. There are yoga classes that are tailored specifically for recovery and regeneration.  
  2. Stretch Classes. Most gyms now offer some type of stretch and regeneration class on their class roster.  They are usually appropriately titled and come equipped with a nice write up to let you know that they are for mobility and stretching. These classes shouldn’t be difficult like an intense yoga class, they should be slow and soothing to your muscular system.
  3. Fascia Rolling. I’m sure you’ve seen and or used some type of rolling tools to deliver a sort of self massage to your muscles. These tools range from the long foam rollers to the small dense lacrosse-like balls. They are used to help release the fascial tissue that runs like a web through your body.  If you are especially tight, your personal fitness pro will recommend that you spend time on those rolling tools prior to entering into your workout. If you release your fascial tissue, your muscles will have more room to move and stretch out!!

So, don’t just sit there on your rest days, do some type of recovery and regeneration work on your body.  Get up and stretch, get up and take a yoga class, get up and roll!! Your joints will be happier for it, Your fitness will progress from it. Recover, Regenerate, Repeat.

Go long,

Tonya T

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