Fitness / Beginner Fitness

Why Recovery is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

Everyone can benefit from a recovery day, no matter your workout of choice.

Once you’ve finally gotten yourself on a solid workout routine that’s yielding your desired results, it’s not only exciting, but also exhilarating. You may feel so motivated and energized by your fitness routine that you attempt to do it daily. While this is certainly admirable, it’s one quick way to find yourself dealing with workout burnout and potentially injury. In fact, the best way to actually reach your fitness goals without consequences like these is to incorporate recovery. 

What is “recovery” when we’re talking about fitness?

In the simplest of terms, recovery is essentially the act of taking time off in between exercise sessions—ideally an entire day or, better yet, a 72-hour stretch for those with intense regimens. Exercise creates tiny micro-tears in your muscles, explains Alicia Jones, National Coach of Canada (NCCP), Advanced Sport Nutrition-Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Training Specialist. It’s during recovery periods that your muscles can actually repair themselves and regain strength. Additionally, when you exercise, your cortisol levels rise, but reach a new level of low afterwards, according to Jones. This can be incredibly helpful for stress management over the long term.

The benefits of recovery in your workout regimen

You become stronger

Despite what you might think, taking a rest day can actually yield more impressive results in the strength department. “If you are trying to gain strength, you need to allow the body to recover so that it heals the micro tears in the muscles that come from resistance training,” explains Bill Daniels, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., founder of Beyond Fitness. “In the process of healing, the muscles get stronger and are better equipped to move the resistance better in the future.”

Your muscles grow larger

Recovery is crucial for muscle growth, explains Brooke Taylor, fitness instructor and creator of TFIGNITE PROGRAM and Taylored Fitness. “During exercise, your muscles break down, and it is during the recovery period that they repair and grow stronger,” she says. “Without proper recovery, your muscles may not have enough time to repair and grow, which can hinder your progress towards your fitness goals.”

You’re better equipped to manage stress

Recovery allows your body to create adaptations to better deal with training stress in future, explains Robert Dodds, certified personal trainer, fitness coach and founder of Nothing Barred Fitness. “When your body is subjected to the same stress again it should be able to better deal with it due to the adaptations it has made since the last time it was exposed to the stress,” he says. “This will be the case as long as sufficient recovery has taken place.” 

You’re less at risk for injury

When you overtrain and neglect to give your body the rest time it needs, you risk the chance of injury. “Pushing your body without adequate recovery can lead to muscle imbalances, decreased coordination, and compromised form, which can all contribute to injuries,” says Taylor. “Proper recovery, including rest days, allows your body to heal, repair, and prevent injuries caused by overuse or overexertion.”

Everyone can benefit from a recovery day, no matter your workout of choice, however, it’s more pertinent for those who train intensely.  “Think of it like a cut on your hand—a small cut (ie: less intense workout) will heal faster than a larger cut,” says Daniels. Age also plays a role in recovery. “The older we get, the slower we recover because the hormonal changes needed for recovery slow as we age,” he says. 

What should your recovery look like?

If you’ve never really taken an intentional recovery period from exercise, you might be wondering what it should entail. While you should be recovering instead of intensely exercising, there’s no reason to become a couch potato. Instead, Jones suggests doing activities that involve “active rest,” where your body is still in motion, but you’re not doing athletic exercises. This might involve taking a light walk, going to the grocery store, doing a few loads of laundry or some other house chores. 

Also during your recovery period, make sure to drink a lot of fluids, mostly water, and sneak in a nap if you can. “Even just 30 minutes of daytime snoozing can help your body recover,” says Jones. She also suggests incorporating some stretching, which creates mobility in your muscles instead of allowing them to tighten up.

Remember that everyone’s recovery day will look a little different. The most important thing to keep in mind is that giving your body rest will actually help you achieve your fitness goals. Plus, when you get back to your routine you’ll have more energy and stamina than before.

Try One of Aaptiv’s Recovery Focused Classes

Yoga: Recovery Flow with Kenta (11 minutes)

Stretching: Recovery Love with Ackeem (13 minutes)

Walk, Jog, and Chill workout by Katie Horwitch (36 minutes)

Beginner Fitness Fitness


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