Rest & Recovery : How to let sore muscles heal

The least spoken about but most important part of any workout regime – RECOVERY. Athletes know this and therefore it’s an integral part of their routine. However, many homegoing fitness enthusiasts may feel ‘guilty’ about taking a rest day. And that may be because of the lack of information. Here’s  what I have observed with the lack of recovery

The GO-HARD MENTALITY

I remember back in the day, somewhere in 2013  my supposed gym trainer never once mentioned rest day or stretches. It was always showing up, going hard all the way. My immediate peers hardly talked about recovery. It seemed that crushing a high-intensity workout 6 days a week or lifting your max weight was the norm.

Fast forward to 2021. Hello Covid.

I started my fitness journey at home. I had no prior knowledge of workout calendars, the different forms of fitness, types of recovery. I learned everything myself from online resources. I would just hop on and hop off the mat. If I warmed up it was because the fitness instructor on the screen did so. Otherwise, it never occurred to me. I would be left sore for days till I could go back to the mat. 

MY OWN EXPERIENCE WITH LACK OF RECOVERY

It wasn’t my complacency that stopped me from stretching, but my general lack of information. I still recall that I was doing a full-body video with Heather Roberston, and I couldn’t go down to my max depth. I was frustrated with myself. Later I realised my hips were too tight and I needed to stretch.

That feeling of not doing my best stuck with me. I decided I needed to incorporate stretching into my routine.

but WHY SHOULD WE STRETCH? 

When we work out we are essentially tearing down our muscle fibres which in turn makes us feel sore. The soreness can last for 48-72 hours after a workout. This is called Delay Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. It’s crucial to either do some stretches or foam rolling to help reduce the soreness. Stretching relaxes our muscles, improves flexibility and joint mobility.

For a more scientifically backed perspective, you can always research more online, but for starters, I found this article on VeryWellFit that you should definitely read up on Why You Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise

Here’s what I discovered on my fitness journey

types of recovery

active recovery

Active recovery is the kind of recovery one does that is a less strenuous workout. It is easy on the joints and helps alleviate tension from the lower back. Active recovery helps increase your endurance during the workout. Think swimming, hiking, taking walks, pilates, gentle yoga, barre.

Here’s Heather Robertson’s Active Recovery stretches

The premise of active recovery is that it increases blood circulation. Which thereafter helps deliver nutrients to the different body parts. On my active recovery days, I do yoga and swimming. 

pure rest

Another thing I learned on the journey was the concept of pure rest days. As the name suggests you can continue doing normal walking around the house or get your groceries kind of movement. It’s essentially just letting your body naturally recover.

 Initially, pure rest was extremely hard for me to take. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t move. What helped me combat that mindset was asking myself some pertinent questions

Is it sustainable in the long run?

If my answer was no, then I knew my plan of action. I kept reminding myself that this is a lifestyle. And once I rest, I’ll be able to perform better.

Getting in tune with your body is absolutely necessary I feel. Honestly, it takes a lot of discipline. But it gets easier over time if you know movement is to make you feel better. 

FOAM ROLLING

I added foam rolling 11 months into my fitness regime. I noticed that despite doing the stretches I would be sore for days. Foam Rolling is also known as ‘Self Myofascial Release’ or SMR. You can think of it as a self-massage. Initially, it hurts, but it’s a good kind of pain that helps alleviate muscle soreness by helping you reach deep connective tissues that you wouldn’t normally be able to tap into while doing your normal stretches.

Here’s an article by Healthline I found extremely useful. It takes you to step by step through the different muscle groups working on a foam roller. And if you’re looking for the following foam rolling stretch head to Sydney Cummings channel.

When you let the body rest completely it promotes recovery. As Sydney says, “We must go hard, rest and refuel and go hard. Most people forget the last two. They come crashing down, not knowing what brought them down.” 

Don’t let that be you. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

In our next post, we shall talk about how we can spice up our workout routine & the signs of overtraining

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