Recovery Yin & Yang
Taking it easy is just as important as exercising hard. It’s a yin/yang relationship. When you find your balance between the two, you are the fittest, strongest and healthiest you can be. Too much or too little of either one and you’re not.
When you hear it’s important to reduce your exercise intensity for a day or two after a workout to recover, you might wonder: What exactly is recovering and how?
Muscle and connective tissue- The reason you feel some soreness after workouts is that exercise causes micro-tears in muscles and connective tissues. These must be repaired before you are able to generate your peak muscle force again. With older adults, this can take 2-3 days as amino acids (proteins) and various growth factors arrive at the damaged site.
That’s why no two consecutive CBF workouts exercise the same muscles at the same intensity. Observe your workouts over a week, you’ll notice different muscles are emphasized in each workout. For example, we don’t do lat pull-downs two workouts in a row.
Energy supplies - In every workout, you use three energy systems. Each is dependent on the delivery of a certain type and mix of chemicals at a certain time to create a multi-step reaction resulting in the release of energy to contract your muscles.
Which energy system is primarily in use depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. When you are breathing so hard you can barely talk, like when on the ropes or doing fast mountain climbers, you are relying on an energy source called phosphocreatine (CP – see blue in graph)), which can be depleted in seconds.The source you use the most is glycogen (see green area in graph), some of which is stored in muscle or as glucose in your bloodstream. Glycogen is used mainly in long, slow activities, like walking, and throughout less intense exercises in workouts.
All of these energy sources rely on chemicals that get depleted during exercise and must be restored during recovery.
Metabolic by-products – Post exercise, your body is awash in waste products that must be removed. The conversion of fuel to energy in your body creates by-products, just like a car produces exhaust. That burning sensation you feel in muscles as you fatigue indicates the presence of hydrogen ions. These put the muscles into cellular acidosis, which then interrupts the delivery of fuel to the muscle. That’s why you start to get wobbly and lose form – you’re running out of gas.
Once you stop exercising, your body immediately starts to recover. But it can only recover if you don’t exercise hard again. That’s why on non-CBF days you don’t overdo it with all you other exercise passions. If you don’t give your body a chance to restore itself, you’ll always feel fatigued, perform at a lower level than you are capable of, and compromise your immune system.
There are a few things you can do to support and accelerate your recovery. The first is eat extra protein and carbohydrates within the first two hours after you leave the gym. Carbs and proteins consumed at the same time have been shown to restore glycogen quicker than carbs alone.
The second is to practice active recovery. On your recovery day don’t just curl up on the sofa and watch TV. Walk or take a slow bike ride. Do some foam rolling or light yoga. The blood and lymph flow into muscles helps the re-synthesis of glycogen and CP while also removing those toxic waste products.
When it comes to recovery, less exercise results in more fitness. And more fitness results in faster recovery.