Felt sore, groggy, and tired when training for your second or third day in a row? That would be your body telling you to slow down. Because while training is definitely crucial to improving your performance, you need rest to perform at your best. From letting your muscle tissue build to helping you avoid overtraining syndrome, here’s why sports recovery is so important (and how to maximise its benefits).
It lets your muscles build
When you do intense exercise like resistance training, you get micro-tears in your muscles. These aren’t a bad thing, mind you. The tears will gradually heal, and your body will adapt to your exercise regimen by making the healed tissue stronger (that’s pretty much how muscle building works). This damage and repair process is also why you can feel sore and stiff the day after a training session, especially if you’ve upped your reps or resistance.
However, your muscles need roughly 24-48 hours to repair this damage, with some experts recommending as much as 72. Without it, your tissue will start to break down instead of build.
Restores glycogen levels
Glycogen replenishes with a combo of carbs and rest. Focusing solely on the carbs and opting to carbo-load to try and keep going won’t work.
- Your body can only store so much energy at once
- Glycogen levels need time to replenish (otherwise, you’re just turning carbs into fast-burning energy)
- And wolfing down bagels and pizza won’t give your muscles the nutrients and proteins they need and could lead to digestive issues that will also throw you off your game. So, take it easy after pushing your muscles to the limit, and let your body build its glycogen stores back up naturally.
Helps you avoid injury
Giving your body enough rest is also a good way to avoid common overuse injuries like Jumper’s Knee, ITBS, and Tennis Elbow. As the name might suggest, these injuries develop when you use a joint too much. Tennis elbow, for example, typically develops when you push the muscles past the point of fatigue, causing them to quit and the epicondyle tendons to pick up the slack. Over time, the overloaded tenon develops microtears, inflames, and starts causing problems. You’ll usually get swelling, tenderness, redness, and pain around the affected area. Your muscles might also stiffen, and you’ll feel less comfortable twisting and putting weight on the joint.
Remember, no one’s invincible. As overuse injuries can range from irritating to debilitating, it’s important to give fatigued muscles the rest they need to bounce back and support the tendons as usual.
You can also try adding in a compression sleeve or two. Our Sports Compression Arm Sleeves, for example, will boost blow flow to the arms, helping prepare the muscles and tendons for physical activity. They’ll also activate key muscle groups to make your muscles act as better supports for vulnerable tissues.
Sports Compression Arm Sleeves
Prevents overtraining syndrome
There is absolutely such a thing as too much exercise, and Overtraining Syndrome is often the gnarly result. Up to 50% of athletes will feel its effects at some point. And without proper rest and recovery, it could hit you, too. Common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Poor sleep
- Fatigue and an inability to focus
- Loss of appetite
You need energy and focus to be at your best. You also need to wolf down between 2400 and 3200 calories a day to keep up your strength and energy levels. So, Overtraining Syndrome can significantly affect your sports performance.
Like burnout develops with too much work and not enough rest, you can develop Overtraining Syndrome if you combine high-intensity physical activity with inadequate recovery. But so long as you take some time off and train in intervals of high-intensity and low-intensity activity, you should be fine. Just mind your energy levels and your body’s warning signs.
So, how do you recover properly?
According to trainers, athletes, and a systematic review in Frontiers, proper recovery means:
- Getting a professional massage within 72 hours of a strenuous workout will ease muscle tension, boost blood flow, and even reduce the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Put rest days into your schedule (ideally 1 every 3-5 days).
- On training days, try to work a different muscle group per day to give others a chance to recover.
- Use a mix of passive and active recovery. Passive recovery is just plain rest and relaxation. Active recovery is low-impact exercise. You should aim to "actively recover" for 15 or so minutes after intense exercise and around 30 minutes on your rest days. Dynamic stretches, walking, and swimming are all great ways to get the blood pumping without overtaxing your repairing muscles.
- Use compression. Wearing compression sleeves or socks while training and during active recovery reduces muscle-damaging oscillations (which we covered in our Knee Compression Sleeve article) and boosts oxygen and nutrient delivery to your muscles, helping the recovery process along. According to that same review in Frontiers, compression garments can also reduce muscle fatigue and DOMS, helping you bounce back quicker.
Sports Compression Calf Sleeves
To sum up
Sports recovery is just as important as training. From keeping your energy up to building muscle mass to helping you avoid injury, giving yourself a break and incorporating good recovery steps can help you push past your limits.
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