An important aspect of exercising for health is knowing when not to exercise — that is, when to take a break. This lesson was painfully driven home to me after paddleboarding following a long hike following a stint of yardwork that involved lifting heavy patio stones. (I knew how to “use my core,” so I was all set — right? Wrong!) I found myself hobbling around painfully for several weeks afterward with bursitis of the hip. At the risk of putting my bruised ego on display, listening to people say, “Slow down, everybody, so Rob can catch up!” was almost as bad as the bursitis.
Everyone needs periods of recovery after heavy exercise, especially when it involves weight training or other resistance training. There is a rule of thumb that says you should skip at least one day between exercising the same muscle groups, and more than one day might be even better as you get older. There’s a reason for this. When we engage in weightlifting or other forms of strength training, we’re essentially tearing the muscle fibers, which become stronger and bulkier as they recover — that is, if they’re given a chance to recover. So, here are some widely accepted tips to help you make the most of your workout and fully recover from exercise.
Tips for exercise recovery
Get enough sleep.
During sleep, the body releases growth hormone, which allows muscles to recover and grow. Sleep is essential to a healthy body and mind, and it aids in recovery from exercise.
Drink plenty of water.
We can lose a lot of fluids during a workout, so it’s important to avoid dehydration. Water is also essential to help remove metabolic waste products from your bloodstream. While there are a lot of athletes out there touting sports drinks like Gatorade, most health experts say plain water is enough. And, of course, people with diabetes should be aware that many sports drinks can raise their blood sugar levels.
Avoid post-exercise alcohol.
Does a beer after a workout help you rehydrate? No, sorry. If anything, alcohol does just the opposite. It can increase your need to urinate, which — you guessed it — promotes dehydration. Also, alcohol can interfere with protein metabolism and the body’s ability to build muscle.
Get adequate protein.
Your body can’t repair muscle tears without it.
Be careful about which painkillers you take.
While many athletes scarf down nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like popcorn, medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen may actually interfere with exercise recovery. Inflammation is part of the body’s natural recovery process. If you need a painkiller, consider acetaminophen instead of NSAIDs. Some exercise experts recommend ice baths instead of pills.
Although there is not much solid evidence that massage aids in muscle repair, it can reduce muscle soreness after a workout. Using foam rollers can help remove any knots in the muscles and connective tissue.
Be in it for the long haul
I tend to look at life as a marathon rather than a sprint, so there’s ample time to slow down when you need to. It will help you in the long run.