Working too many hours or staying out too late makes your body crave sleep. Like any normal person, you find the time to nap or catch up until you again feel good. If not, you breakdown and get sick. Basically, your body rebels and lets you know that it needs you to change or else.
Much like your body in general, the muscles you train need the same kind of tender loving care. But too many people forget that to have your body grow and gain muscle, you have to provide it with adequate recovery. For some reason, people see recovery as simply doing nothing until they hammer that part of their body again, but this doesn’t give the body anything it really needs aside from strict downtime. Others see recovery periods as a hindrance and instead elect to continue training with little time and thought in between.
Needless to say, both are off the mark. Rather than guess as to what should be done after your training session has ended, check the advice below. Though you do not need to do each one, consider integrating as many as possible into your plan so that you can maximize your workouts, let your muscles thrive, and find a healthier lifestyle in a far quicker and more efficient way.
1. Cool down and stretch: As soon as your hard training is over, leave quality time at the close of the session to do some easy movements that mimic the ones used before. Let the muscles go through similar movements in a deliberately slow way. This lets them actively cool down rather than abruptly stop. Then spend some time doing a few slow, long stretches that focus on the muscles used. Basically, pamper the muscles so that they leave the session happy and headed toward regenerating.
2. Rehydrate: While you should be drinking water throughout the workout, rehydrating immediately following the session is critical. Your body expends a considerable amount of energy and needs replenishing, especially with fluids. You may elect to use a shake consisting of simple carbohydrates and protein. This actually bridges the rehydrating with refueling.
3. Refuel: Within sixty minutes of your training’s end, you need to get food in your body to help begin rebuilding the muscles. Since the tissues breakdown during the session, you need to get a blend of complex carbohydrates and proteins into your system.
4. Active recovery: While not common in weightlifters, other athletes such as triathletes and runners need active recovery sessions, which generally consist of doing similar motions at a far less intensity than in the workout itself. For example, after a competing in a triathlon, the triathlete, despite the extreme stress the race put on the body, should ride lightly for 15 minutes later that day or early the next morning.
5. Adequate rest: Muscles trained hard need roughly 72 hours of rest between training sessions. If you do 14 sets of chest on a Monday, you should not be lifting for that muscle again until at least Thursday. But, as always, remember to listen closely to your body. It may tell you it needs additional rest, so do not run the risk of overtraining and give yourself the added day if needed.
6. Recovery weeks: This is unquestionably the most overlooked but essential idea. Your body can be pushed to incredible limits, but it needs small periods of time worked in to allow for it to catch up. Every four to six weeks you should stop upping the weight or putting on the miles. Keep the workout less intense and at a level that is about 75% of the normal load. This keeps the muscles active while giving them required rest.
7. Sleep: Seems obvious but people just do not do it enough. If you are getting less than 8 hours a night, you are stealing from your body. Sleep gives the muscles ultimate rest, and the body can regenerate quicker during sleep than at any other time. You’ll be shocked that if you up your sleep time, your muscles will not only grow faster but you’ll also recover faster, resulting in better, more productive training sessions.