One positive of the coronavirus pandemic is that people have turned their focus to becoming healthier through fitness, nutrition, and rest, with the goal of long-term wellness rather than short-term chiseled abs or personal records. At Coach Robb Solutions, our manta has always been health, wellness, then performance. Exercise is a great habit to have within your daily life; however, when it becomes an obsession it can actually become counter-productive to your overall health. Excessive training (in the form of volume and/or intensity) without adequate rest and recovery causes the body to become “numb” to external indicators of over training such as mood swings, simple sugar cravings, interrupted sleep, loss of sex drive, loss of body weight, suppressed appetite an elevated resting heart rate, and most important in today’s climate, a compromised immune system.
Research indicates that after 12 weeks of consistent training or exercise, Cytochome C (a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the production of energy at a cellular level), reaches a peak and then beings to decline. In addition to Cytochrome C levels, so does your maximum oxygen uptake (also known as your VO2 Max.). At this point, the body must be allowed to rest and re-group for continued progress.
Exercise creates adaptations within the body’s various systems (muscular, cardio-pulmonary, lymphatic, nervous and connective) and needs to be supported with rest and food for positive adaptations. Inadequate amounts (and quality) of sleep and food set the body up for a physical break down which leads to negative effects on the body (i.e. suppressed immune system and muscles with less power and endurance).
In addition to adaptations within the body’s systems, exercise causes changes at a cellular level – cell mitochondria swell, metabolic wastes accumulate, essential nutrients (particularly electrolytes and stored glycogen) deplete, and muscle tissue is torn. This tearing is known as microtrauma of the cells, and torn muscle tissue doesn’t work efficiently. As popularly noted, it takes 48 hours for the body to recover from this micro-trauma and has to be supported with rest and food for proper recovery and improved overall health.
If the body doesn’t get the opportunity to rebuild from the “work phase” of exercise, overall health and associated gains begin to slow down (and in extreme circumstances, cease all together).
The concept of hard exercise days followed with easy-active recovery days incorporated into your weekly training schedule establishes the balance necessary for maximum improvements in your overall health and ultimately your performance. Consistent exercise without physical or mental setbacks provides the foundation for your body absorb the exercise you are putting the body through. This means building lean muscle and dropping body fat. The larger the foundation (i.e. quality of overall health) the quicker you will recover from workouts and the quicker your body will progress and adapt.
The key to overcoming your fear of resting for recovery is to understand how much it will help, rather than hinder, your performance and long-term goals. Think about it this way, if you are not fresh, you will not have the energy (or desire) to push to the next level of performance. If your body doesn’t experience the next level, you will begin to stagnate within your performance cycles. So, the next time you see a recovery workout on your schedule, don’t ignore it! Remember, that rest allows your body to recover, rebuild, and ultimately become stronger and healthier.