Working out every day to hit your fitness goals sounds like a great idea. But it may be what derails you from reaching your goal. As an amateur athlete, you need adequate recovery time and quality sleep to reap the maximum benefits without hurting yourself.
The most important part of a proper recovery is quality rest, says sports medicine specialist Laura Goldberg, MD. In fact, the days when you rest and recover are just as important as the days when you run, work out or play sports. Without them, your body won’t rebound.
What happens while you’re at rest
REM sleep is responsible for memory collection. That includes muscle memory. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories learned from practice that day, strengthening motor skills that contribute to physical performance, Dr. Goldberg says.
“When we get quality REM and non-REM sleep, that’s when the body heals,” she says.
Getting proper rest also improves your reaction time. The more alert you are, the faster you’ll be. And you’re less likely to make errors if you’re playing a sport.
“In a tight game, if you’re not getting enough rest, you might not react quite as quickly as you would otherwise,” Dr. Goldberg says.
Additionally, staying well-rested controls your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.
If you’re not getting enough rest, your body starts a vicious cycle: Higher cortisol levels leave you too keyed up. You’ll have more difficulty relaxing and letting your body recharge. And that means cortisol levels won’t level out.
Other benefits of a good recovery
You want to push yourself to improve your athletic performance. But giving your body time to recharge between workouts can put you even farther ahead of the competition. Here are just some of the rewards you can reap:
- Fewer injuries. Taking a day off or cross-training between days of intense exercise helps you sidestep muscle overuse. The recovery time helps you avoid sprains or strains. Overall, you’ll have a lower risk of injury.
- Better muscle repair. Certain types of exercise, particularly weight training, create small tears in your muscles. Those tears can only heal and strengthen your muscles if you take time to recover. Without it, your body doesn’t get the full benefit of training.
- Immune system boost. Rest and recovery time gives your immune system a break. Without rest, your body is constantly working to repair your muscles and joints. If your immune system is always on overload, it’s less able to fight off infection.
- No foothold for fatigue. Insufficient recovery time makes you fatigued and decreases your natural abilities. Your appetite could decrease, and you could still feel tired even after you sleep.
Ultimately, Dr. Goldberg says, pay attention to how your body feels. It will tell you if you need more quality rest.
“If you’re feeling alert and good, then you’re probably getting enough rest,” she says. “If you’re walking around feeling sluggish, it’s probably because your body is in overdrive.”
The bottom line: Make time to rest and recharge and you’ll put in your best effort the next time you go for a run or step onto the playing field.
Written by the Bone, Muscle and Joint Team
As the official health partner, Cleveland Clinic Canada takes care of Sport & Social Members to keep them in the game. We have two locations – 181 Bay Street and 150 Eglinton Ave. East. Benefits include on-site imaging (OHIP), Sports Medicine physicians (OHIP), Orthopaedic surgeons (OHIP) and rehabilitation providers. Call the dedicated Sport & Social hotline at 1-888-507-6885 (Bay Street) or 416-481-1601 (Eglinton Ave.)