Recovery is an important part of a training program to allow your neuromuscular system and associated physiological systems to adapt to the repeated stress loads of exercise. It is important not to overtrain as you won’t maximize the benefits of your workout.
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ for recovery time, but the general consensus is about 48 hours of recovery time per muscle group. This timeframe is why many strength training and other high intensity programs suggest a day of rest between workouts or the training of a muscle group. A simple measure is that if your muscles are still sore when you workout next, then you probably need more recovery time.
Factors that vary the time of recovery are:
- How fast your body recuperates.
- Exercise intensity.
- Exercise volume.
- Sleep quality and quantity.
It is important not to overdo it when returning to exercise after a long break or illness. Be patient and ease into it, injury can set you back for months. If you are struggling with what is usually a manageable workload, then you may be experiencing neural fatigue. In this case, rather than doing more, you should ease off or stop exercising, spend more time in recovery, and save your energy for next time.
The harder your workout, the more recovery is needed. It is essential to be particularly mindful of this after big events such as a competition.
It is worth being mindful of muscle memory, the body’s ability to adapt more quickly when retraining muscles. While not fully understood how this works, the ability is known to last for several months without training. It means that missing a few days or even weeks of training sessions is inconsequential compared to being injured.
Helpful activities to do on a recovery day are:
- Low intensity steady state exercise such as a walk or light bike ride for 20-40 minutes.
- Dynamic stretching.
A significant component of recovery is quality nutrition and sleep.