Recovery is one of the most misunderstood and neglected areas in training. So often, we become obsessed with progress and all we want to do is push ourselves to the limit every single day. It can even feel like a day without lifting, running, or something to break a sweat is a day wasted. It feels like if we didn’t train, we didn’t get better, in fact we probably got worse because we took that day off. Wrong.
Recovery is of the utmost importance to our continued progress in our training programs. In fact, without recovery, there is no progress. The act of training in itself is damaging to the cells of our body. When we lift weights, go for a run, or do agility drills we create micro-tears in our muscle fibers and expend great amounts of energy. The way that we become better is by letting our body build itself up bigger, stronger, faster, than it was before, adapting to the demands which we impose upon ourselves. This happens during the recovery phase.
Continued neglect of recovery can cause overtraining syndrome and despite one’s best efforts, a decrease in performance variables. The NSCA defines overtraining as: excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training which results in extreme fatigue, illness, or injury (1). Taking that day or two off every week may feel like waste of time, but in fact it is critical to continued progress. These days of recovery allow the body to return to homeostasis and repair itself from previous training sessions, ensuring that continued progress is made. In fact, Exercise performance has been shown to improve following relative rest from difficult training sessions (2). If you feel chronically tired, or are frustrated about your lack of progress despite continued rigorous training sessions, don’t keep beating yourself down. Take a step back, implement a day or two of recovery here and there, let yourself heal, and reap the benefits of a fully restored mind and body.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Edited by Thomas R. Baechle, Roger W. Earle. Third Edition. 2008.
Banister, E.W. Modeling Elite Athletic Performance. In: Physiological Testing of the High Performance Athlete, J.D. MacDougall, H.A. Wenger, and H.J. Green, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 1991. pp. 403-424