Your Workout is Over, Now What?

After weeks in the gym, you have started feeling strong, capable, and proud of yourself for sticking to your routine. You’re a workout pro! But you’re probably also feeling a little tired. If that is the case, don’t worry. Even the most experienced athletes have to take time to rest. 

Post-workout recovery is just as integral to your success as finding a workout routine that you can stick to. Once you have the tips and tricks to optimize your rest days and actively recover on your workout days, you will be on your way to conquering that mid-week fatigue. 

How Many Recovery Days Do I Need?

If you’re like most of us, you can’t wait until rest day rolls around. It feels like a well-earned mid-week gift to ourselves! But scheduled downtime is not just a break for fun. Our bodies actually need this period of rest & recovery to get stronger. 

Rest days, also known as recovery days, should be taken at least once a week. But, recovery periods can differ. Depending on your training schedule, age, and goals, you may need more rest. While some people’s muscles recover in just one day, others can require up to 72 hours.

For beginners, alternating rest days and work days can prove the most successful. For a 7-day workout plan, that means 4 total days of exercise with 3 days for recovery. As you get stronger, you can reduce the recovery days as needed.

If you have been in the workout game for a while, you know recovery can look different. While 24 hours of no strenuous activity is all you might need, there are many recovery rituals that you can do post-workout to elevate your results. We talk in-depth about our favorite four later in the post, but before we get to those, let’s break down how something as seemingly simple as rest can make such a big impact.

How Your Body Converts Rest to Results

When it comes to muscle growth, rest is king. Periods of strain (breaking down the muscle tissue) and recovery (when muscle tissue heals) allow our bodies to adapt and gain strength. However, eliminate the rest period, and problems begin to show. When our muscle tissue doesn’t get a chance to heal, our bodies break down and we become more prone to injuries. 

In addition to scheduled recovery days, our bodies get the most time to heal when we sleep. It is widely accepted that sleep benefits both the mind and body in a multitude of ways. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sleep affects almost every tissue in our body. From our immune system to our hormones, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health, we depend on sleep to keep us healthy. 

When we don’t get enough sleep, or our sleep patterns are disrupted, this can create problems within our physiological systems that affect our weight and muscle growth. In a study of over 10,000 students, published by The Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions, there was found to be an association between duration of sleep and muscle strength. Both men and women who slept less than 6 hours per night, had less strength than those who slept longer. 

These are just a few of the documented benefits that come from 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep. Now that we know all the benefits of rest, how do you know if you should be getting more of it?

Signs You Need a Rest Day

You’re overly tired or moody. Just like prolonged stress can hurt your physical body, it can also affect your mind. If you’ve been struggling to get enough rest or feel lethargic and moody even if you have gotten a normal night’s sleep, it’s time to consult your recovery routine. It could be you are exhausting your Central Nervous System (CNS), which has been working overtime to send messages between your body and mind. Despite what you might think, we are not only flexing our muscles when we exercise. Our central nervous system is also getting a workout with every rep. 

You’re in pain. While sore muscles and fatigue are normal after a tough workout, prolonged pain is not. Most athletes are incredible at blocking out and pushing through discomfort. This is what makes them stronger, faster, and able to compete at higher levels. But pain is different and shouldn’t be ignored. Pain and injuries are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. 

You’re feeling sick. Healthy amounts of exercise can actually boost your immune system. However, too much of it can have the opposite effect and leave you ragged. Without enough rest, your body becomes vulnerable to bacteria and illnesses it may normally be able to fight off. Just like with an injury, you must listen to your body and take time to heal. 

You have multiple bad workouts in a row. “Bad” is subjective when it comes to your fitness goals, but we all know a bad workout when we feel it. If you have struggled to complete an exercise routine that is normally easy for you, or have reached a fitness plateau, overworking your system could be to blame. Instead of giving your body time to heal, your body is in a state of constant overuse. Try taking an extra rest day or adding a new recovery tactic to your schedule. Your body will thank you! 

Prioritizing Muscle Recovery

Simply put, you have to prioritize muscle recovery. This is a fact well-known by professional athletes and recreational athletes alike. But rest days don’t have to mean “lazy” days. While some might benefit from a splurge of junk food, videogame marathons, and time on the couch, others may prefer a more active form of recovery. 

If you are the latter, there are plenty of ways to give your body a break without feeling like you aren’t doing anything. Muscle recovery comes in two forms: active and passive. Most people use a combination of both to achieve the best results and keep their bodies healthy. 

Passive recovery prioritizes rest and little to no movement. This can involve massage therapy, ice baths, and sleep. These forms of rest help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and give your muscles a full break so that you have more energy to start again with your next workout. Many athletes prefer passive recovery in the later stages of their training when active recovery alone isn’t sufficient.

Active recovery is any recovery that involves light exercise. Yoga, static stretching, foam rolling, a low-intensity bike ride, brisk walking, or jogging all fall into this category. This form of recovery can be more targeted at the heart and lungs and used when first beginning a training program. Often, active recovery can be used at intervals throughout an intense workout, at the end, or on rest days. 

Using both active and passive techniques helps prevent injury, and reduce muscle soreness, and are integral parts of a good wellness routine. Depending on your stage of training, you can decide what mix works best for you!

Tips to Optimize Your Post-Workout Recovery

Post-workout recovery is more than just what you do physically. Taking steps to protect yourself from injury, burnout, and stagnation happens outside the gym as much as it does inside. These four tips focus on full-body restoration, helping to return your system to its natural state of homeostasis, the condition of optimal functioning in the human body.

Stay Hydrated

Most people need more water. In fact, 75% of adults in the United States are considered chronically dehydrated. More than feeling a little thirsty, insufficient amounts of water can cause fatigue, complicate medical conditions, and is a common cause of hospitalizations, especially among older patients. 

While hydration is important for everyone, athletes have to be extra cautious of their water loss and consumption. Dehydration impacts performance, muscle strength, endurance, and recovery. When we sweat, we also lose electrolytes, which affect muscle contraction, muscle soreness, and cramping. By being vigilant about your water intake, there is normally no need to worry. 

Try adding an electrolyte powder to your post-workout water bottle to replenish these vital nutrients before you even leave the gym. Keep in mind, not all electrolyte powders are conducive to reaching your optimal wellness goals. Many sports drinks have electrolytes added but can contain added sugars, preservatives, and colored dyes too. When you’re looking for the right electrolyte product to purchase, make sure you are picking the brand that supports your overall wellness and muscle recovery. 

Focus on Nutrition

As we work out, in addition to burning calories, we also lose vital nutrients that do heavy lifting to support athletic performance. We’ve already discussed the importance of replenishing our electrolytes, but there are other nutrients our body needs. 

After a workout, your body craves proteins and carbohydrates to refuel the stores that have been lost. You can optimize your skeletal muscles’ adaptive response by consuming food throughout post-exercise recovery. This response is what allows our body to increase endurance and strength as well as adapt to environmental changes. 

Eating a healthy amount of whole foods and limiting your intake of junk foods is a good place to start. While everyone’s dietary preferences may vary, sources of lean protein (or protein supplements), complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables are the types of foods your body needs to build and repair the systems that keep us functioning at our highest levels. 

Add Supplements

Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial to giving our bodies the support they need to build muscle and properly recover. Sometimes we can’t get all the nutrients we need from our meals alone. Adding a dietary supplement is an easy and natural solution that might just be the key to unlocking the next level of your athletic performance. 10X Health offers a wide range of supplements, formulated over years of research, to specifically help our clients reach their wellness goals. 

If pills aren’t your style, there are plenty of other ways to supplement your diet. Try opting for gummy supplements, or even drinks like shakes or juice powders. For example, research shows that tart cherry juice and tart cherry powders reduce inflammation, muscle damage, and muscle soreness from intense workouts. 

Try Wellness Therapies

Physical therapists and health experts have been researching the best methods of healing the human body for years. These techniques are incredibly personalized and can be fine-tuned to target different muscle groups. Some of the most common wellness therapies include:

You have probably heard of most of these in one form or another, but do you know why they are so popular? Wellness therapies have been proven to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and increase blood flow. For example, because of the constriction and dilation response it induces in blood vessels, cold water therapy is an effective way to repair your muscles after a workout. 

If you haven’t added any wellness therapies to your recovery routine, now is your time to give them a try! 

Learn More About Active Recovery With 10X Health!

Post-exercise recovery is an invaluable addition to anyone’s training regime who is serious about improving their results. At 10X Health, we help people of all ages and abilities explore new ways to reach their wellness goals.

If you’re focused on strength training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), are an endurance athlete, or anywhere in between, learning how to recover after your workout will not only 10X how you feel but the results you see, too. 

With our team of trained wellness experts, we can walk you through the latest recovery measures used by top athletes. Using genetic and blood testing, we can create a wellness map that outlines exactly what your body could benefit from, and give you the tools to guide you. If you are tired of muscle soreness without the results you want, now is the time for change. We are here to help! 

Ready to finally take control of your wellness? Get started on the journey to improved physical performance by ordering 10X Health’s comprehensive genetic test and scheduling a blood test today! 

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