Everyone wishes their results from working out were instantly visible. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Because of this, people can easily become frustrated. It’s a real downer to feel like you’re maximizing your inputs and seeing nothing in return. It feels unfair when an hour of cardio doesn’t immediately translate to a smaller waistline. Working on leg day for three days in a row should mean they become more toned, right?
Continuously pushing yourself without taking proper time for rest and recovery periods will inevitably lead you to failure. It may seem counterintuitive, but these periods of rest are vital to your progress.
Why would I rest? I need to keep training!
This mentality won’t get you very far. In fact, the time between your workouts may be more important than the time during. Slowing down and appreciating some R&R is difficult when you’re highly driven towards reaching your goals, but you’ll never make it there without it.
During recovery periods, your muscles have the opportunity to repair and strengthen, particularly during your sleep. While you’re sleeping, your body produces Growth Hormone, a hormone that plays a major part of the repair and growth of your tissues. In short, if you aren’t getting restorative sleep each night, your muscles won’t have the chance to properly heal and then strengthen for your next workout.
Recovery is about more than your sleep at night; it also pertains to taking breaks. It can take as long as a full day or two for your muscles to fully repair, so alternating your workouts to train different muscle groups is actually important to your progress. This means when you want to see muscle build on your arms, you shouldn’t work out your arms every single day. You should allow for proper breaks so you don’t exhaust them.
Allotting the proper amount of time for recovery and rest is what makes all the difference in enhancing your performance and making your trainings more effective. If you want to see any sort of progress in your workouts or weight loss routine, you’ll need to make sure you’re maximizing your R&R periods. Here’s what you can do:
Hydration is key to a good workout. Everyone knows that. What some may forget, however, is the importance of refueling after your workouts. While you exercise, you deplete your body of its hydration through your sweat. If you don’t refuel yourself afterwards, you may find it difficult to get quality sleep at night and maximize on your rest.
Because when we’re dehydrated, it’s harder for our body to cool down and experience a drop in core body temperature before bed that helps us fall into deep sleep. Dehydration also increases your heart rate, leaving you feeling amped up while you should be relaxing. Whatever you do, remember to refill your water bottle after your workouts and rehydrate your body.
Learn to wind down
Speaking of being amped up, working out naturally excites your body. Sure, long-term your workouts will help lower your resting heart rate and stress levels, but the immediate impact of a workout can make you feel more revved up instead of relaxed. This becomes especially important if you workout in the evenings close to bedtime.
This is why it’s important that you learn how to effectively wind down from your workouts so you can get better sleep at night. By developing a wind down routine and consistently keeping up with it, you will be able to signal to your body that you’re ready for rest and relaxation. A wind down routine makes both falling asleep and achieving deep sleep easier. And deep sleep is the most important time for your muscles to recover so it’s critical that you can get it in.
Everyone’s wind down routine is personal to themselves, but here are a few steps that can get you started:
- Turn off the tech. Avoid blue light from your phone, TV, or other devices as it will stimulate you and have the adverse effect.
- Take a warm bath. This will help raise your temperature a degree or two, making your core body temperature drop easier to achieve. It will also just feel good.
- Stretch. Ease the tension in your muscles with some light stretching.
Learn what works best for you, and then stay consistent so your body can recognize the routine.
If you have trouble getting comfortable, you won’t be able to maximize your sleep quality. Did you know the bed you’re sleeping on could even be contributing to your pain? Dr. Dominique explains, “Sleeping on a mattress of poor quality will continue to cause joint breakdown and irritation long term.” Rather than using your sleep to heal your body, you’ll be hurting it even worse.
That’s why it’s so important that you’re sleeping on a mattress that fits your sleeping needs. Try to look out important qualities such as pressure relief and spinal alignment when it comes to finding a bed that won’t add to your pain. Experts also recommend sticking in the medium-firm to firm range for the best support.
While your bed matters a lot, your sleeping position does, too. You’ll want to avoid putting stress on your spine and joints. Here comes the bad news for stomach sleepers: this is the worst position you could sleep in. Stick to sleeping on your back for the most natural position that’s the least likely to cause you pain.
With all of these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make the most of your periods for rest and maximize your recovery. Tempting as it may be, take time to pull back from your workout to focus on how to improve your recovery. That’s when you’ll start seeing the real progress.
Laurie Larson is a freelance writer based out of North Carolina. She writes on home, health, and lifestyle topics to help others live healthier and happier lives.