We all hear about how important rest and recovery is when it comes to achieving our health and fitness goals, but have you ever stopped to think about the reasons as to why? Exercise Physiologist and Nutritionist, Veronika Larisova, takes us through what physically happens to our bodies post workout and how best we can avoid the effects of overtraining.
First thing’s first, what are some of the benefits of rest and recovery in-between training sessions?
Adequate recovery is as important as good quality training. Good training session challenges our body and stimulates it to adapt to a higher level and improve. In a nutshell, we don’t become leaner, stronger and faster while training. The rest and recovery between training sessions allows for repair of small muscle fibre tears, which occur naturally with exercise. When these tears repair themselves, our muscles are stronger than before, and that’s where improved performance comes from. Recovery is also important to restore muscle glycogen stores and reset hormonal balance. Not allowing enough time for recovery leads to overtraining, overuse and burnout with nasty symptoms such as reduced performance, increased injury rate, low immune system, anxiety and generally crappy feeling.
What are some of the signs of ‘overtraining’?
Overtraining (or burnout) happens when you don’t give your body and mind enough time to recover between sessions. Muscle and cell damage, inflammation, nervous system strain and other factors keep accumulating until your body starts breaking down. The common symptoms include persistent muscle soreness and fatigue (even after a good sleep), decreased performance, elevated resting heart rate, racing heart or huge spikes in heart rate even with a gentle activity, suppressed immune system (getting colds often), recurrent injuries, suddenly low motivation, irritability, depression and insomnia. If these symptoms continue even after a solid rest, you should see a doctor to get tested for physiological markers of overtraining. Incorporating days of complete and active recovery, maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration, and good quality sleep are the best methods in preventing overtraining.
What Exactly Happens To Out Body After a HIIT Session
Muscle and tendon micro-damage: Every time we train, we suffer micro-tears in our skeletal muscles and tendons. These can only repair at rest and with adequate intake of all macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats), which we also need to replenish glycogen stores. Depleted muscle and liver glycogen and accumulation of toxins also occur.
Cellular damage: This applies mainly during prolonged high-impact physical activity such as endurance running. The mechanical load causes damage of red blood cells. Then there’s oxidative damage caused by free radicals produced during running. Research indicates that it takes 7-10 days to recover from a marathon race.
Inflammation: Every exercise session triggers an inflammatory response in the body. This is absolutely normal and letting your body recover adequately after each session will actually prevent developing a chronic inflammation. Chronic (systemic) inflammation is a major underlying factor of many injuries and autoimmune diseases. Systemic inflammation also contributes to weight gain, hormonal disturbances and significantly reduced ability to burn fat.
Nervous system fatigue: High intensity prolonged exercise affects our physical and mental performance due to neurochemical changes in our brain. Rest is needed to restore optimal levels of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and acetylcholine.
How Much Rest Do We Actually Need?
The amount of rest you need depends on many factors such as genetics, age, current health and fitness status, training goals, training mode, volume and intensity, as well as physical activity outside of training, just to name few. While some people can recover literally overnight, most of us need 1-4 recovery days between high intensity training sessions. And, although there’s not one-size-fits-all recovery program, we all need to incorporate days of complete rest and active recovery into our training week to get the best results while staying clear of injuries and burnout.