One’s health and fitness depends on a number of different factors. Age, weight, body type, current level of fitness, medical conditions and how big of a wuss you are, all contribute to how much you can push yourself and how often you can work out. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a subjective opinion. But what you do and how often you do it will depend on these things and more. And at some point, no matter your level of fitness, you’ll need some time to recover.
Let’s start by examining the simple concept being effective fitness. When you work out, you tax and exert your muscles causing damage to them. Then, provided you consume an adequate diet of foods, your body will repair the muscle tissue, making it bigger and stronger than what it previously was in order to accommodate the exertion you previously put it through. This is what pop culture refers to as getting “gains.” It’s also how you’re able to push longer with more weight when you do strength training.
Although cardio is meant to provide something slightly different than strength training, most of the same factors are present. Otherwise, how can you grow, progress and run for longer distances (or walk, cycle and/or elliptical). But have you ever tried using a broken tool? You may still accomplish your goal, but it will likely be more difficult. And the end result may not be exactly what you were trying to achieve. This is why repairing a broken tool before reusing it (No, you’re a broken tool! I know you said it…) is important. Ans it’s also where getting proper rest and allowing your body to recover comes in.
An exact answer is a little difficult to gauge. After all, if you rarely work out then foolishly participate in a Marine Corps workout with your fitness-obsessed, psycho friend (wink, wink!) you’ll likely need recover immediately the next day and possibly even the day of. If you consistently work out and have a good fitness base, you may be fine with taking a day to recover every few days, or once to twice a week. But even your level of fitness is only one of the factors to be considered in terms of recovery.
Honestly, I’ve found so much contradictory information when I researched this post that I’m not even certain what sources to quote. Some have the opinion that you should take 24 to 48 hours to properly heal and recover after a workout. Other sites boast as much as 72 hours to recover for specific muscles groups, before performing a workout with them again. It’s a balance that depends on the intensity of the workout you do coupled with the bodily factors I mentioned earlier.
According to an article I found on BodyBuilding.com, a person should immediately recuperate for 2 to 4 hours following a workout, but as long as 72 hours afterwards. The article also explains that some of the issue lies in the fact that most people train to much and too often, as opposed to too hard. This ties in with my recent post about getting too much of a good thing. It’s important to listen to your body and recognize when you’re doing too much.
An article by MensHealth.com claims that muscle damage isn’t necessary for proper gains so long as you hit the gym regularly. They indicate that long recovery periods aren’t necessary for proper fitness, provided a bunch of factors are in place. But they don’t necessarily cover off recommended periods of recovery. It can be pretty difficult to know how long you should be resting after an intense workout.
One of the important things to remember is that recovery doesn’t mean being off your feet and doing nothing afterwards, either. You need to keep yourself moving in order to avoid seizing up. This might mean taking a light walk the day after, or doing some light stretches combined with soaking in an epsom salt bath. This will help ease and relax muscles as well as loosen stiff joints.
At the end of the day, be sure to listen to your body. Starting back before you’ve recovered will cause injury as opposed to normal muscle soreness associated with working out. If you wake up barely able to move, it stands to reason that you should probably take it easy and save the 10k run for a different day. But if you’ve rested for a day and you feel good and only slightly sore, you may be ready to kick back into gear. It will be entirely dependent on you. Last but not least, don’t forget that if you have Diabetes and injure yourself, healing and recovery will likely take longer.☯