As often happens, a good plenty of well intentioned folks begin a new exercise regimen and soon find themselves either stagnating or totally burnt out in a fairly short order of time. What might be the problem?
It’s simple. People who are new to exercise of any kind do not know what it is they do not know.
How hard can it be to pick up and put down a weight?
I have been running every day for a few weeks now and my run times and pace are slowing down?
What is it that I am missing that instead of getting stronger in my exercise, I am actually getting weaker? I eat good and always put in my best effort, yet my progress has not only stalled, I am going backwards…
If you are asking those questions, you do not know what it is you do not know. Sure you eat good and bust your ass to get stronger with the weights or quicker in your run. You could always get an “A” for effort in the gym, yet your progress is nowhere where it should be. The culprit may not be your effort, nor in your form. Since you are eating clean while ensuring you get enough calories, it is not your diet that is hampering you. So what it the culprit to your lack of progress?
Rest and recovery are lacking.
Rest and recovery are as important to your exercise regimen as the actual lifitng of weights, it is important in every step you pound out on the track or trail. Rest and recovery are as important to your exercise as proper nutrition, yet many people do not realize this. While the key to physical fitness lies obviously in how hard you train and how well you eat, many people are totally unaware that rest and recovery have an equal importance. And the older we get, the more important this aspect becomes.
When you hammer your body every day, you can and will kill your own progress, especially you folks like myself who are over the age of fifty. Building rest and recovery time into your exercise regimen is critical because this is the period where your body adapts to the stress of exercise. During your resting periods, your body rebuilds the micro-damages done during your physical fitness activites. This is when the benefits of your exercise take place and is also when the body replenishes it’s energy stores so that you can nail that next session.
To understand why you need rest and recovery in your exercise regimen a little better; When you exert your body physically, several things happen which make recovery important to you. When you lift weights, it places stress on your muscle fibers. When you run or walk for a long time for you, it places pressure on your skeletal system. During physical activities you will often feel that lactic acid burn. Your muscles need anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild after you exercise, especially after heavy weight lifting or running. Working those muscles too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.
Handy recovery tips to follow:
- Replace lost fluids. You lose a lot of fluids when you exercise which ideally, you will replenish during your exercise session. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in your body, and by being properly hydrated you will have proper body function. If you are an endurance athlete, then hydration is even more important.
- Eat healthy recovery foods. After strenuous exercise you need to refuel your body. For those dieting and trying to lose weight, this point applies to you as well. If you want your body to repair itself and get stronger, you have to eat plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. Ideally, you should try to eat within 60 minutes of your workout.
- Rest and relax. As with an injury, time is your friend when it comes to healing after you workout. Your body is designed with a remarkable ability to heal itself and this is done mostly when you allow it during resting time. While it seems contrary to popular opinion, if you want to get stronger at your physical fitness activity, then plan adequate time to rest and do nothing.
- Stretch after a workout. A little gentle stretching after a workout, and or foam rolling will help your recovery to feel better. Contrary to popular beliefs, you do not need to, nor should you bother with stretching of cold muscles as a warm up. Do a warm up to get the blood flowing before your exercise then stretch once you are finished if you feel the need to.
- Program in an occasional week for active recovery. If you lift weights, then oonce a month perform your normal routines for a week with only fifty percent of the amount you normally life. If you are a runner, simply go out and walk your normal running trail or path at a brisk pace. Easy gentle movements help to improve circulation which helps to promote nutrient and waste product transport throughout your body. Active recovery helps your muscles to repair and refuel.
- Get a deep tissue massage if you can afford it as not only do they feel great, they help improve circulation while allowing you to relax. If you cannot aford a massage, try a foam roller for easing tight muscles. Foam rollers are inexpensive and are excellent for easing tight muscles.
- Get enough sleep! During your sleep your body is actively healing itself. Optimal sleep is essential for all who exercise regularly. During sleep, your body produces growth hormone which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair.
- Avoid over training and make all that you do count. Be intelligent about your exercise. Do exercises that make the most efficient use of your time. Let me repeat this point, do exercises that make the most use of your time. If you lift weights, then make your focus be on compound lifts that work multiple muscle groups instead of single muscle isolation lifts. You can lift weights, doing compound lifts for one hour and still get as much or even more benefit as if you spent three hours in the gym doing single muscle movements. (Note: I am speaking to novices here, not seasoned athletes) Excessive exercise, heavy training at every session with a lack of rest days will limit your fitness gains and undermine your recovery efforts. If you are new to exercise, please make sure you avoid the silly challenges you might see on popular weight loss social media forums, such as wall sits where you lean against a wall in a sitting postion for as long as you can. If you can do this nonsense for a half hour straight, you would have been much better off maybe jumping rope, running in place, doing jumping jacks, or a combination of all for that half hour. The same can be said for planking challenges. These exercises might help you learn to get through lactic acid burn, but really do little else for actually strengthening your body once it has become used to doing it. If you do not have access to any weights, or only want to use your body weight, which is fine, then try doing as many squats as you can instead of wall sits. Make your efforts count!
- Listen to your body. This is critical for your recovery, if you are feeling more tired, sore, or notice decreased performance, you need to take the time for rest and recovery. Do not base your recovery needs on what another person might need. If you need to take an additional day off on occasion to get a little better rest, then do so. You are only going to come back stronger if you do so. You will not lose any of your progress even if you take an entire week off.
- Keep your exercise enjoyable, Do not let it turn into a drudgery that you always have to force your way through. By keeping it enjoyable, you reduce stress which is going to allow you more energy to get after it. If you enjoy your activity, it will be so much easier to pour your heart and soul into it which is going to carry you far.