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Recovery: Is it more important than your workout?

physical therapyBeing physically active is essential to good health, but in order for you to protect yourself from injury and extreme soreness, it's important that you give the subject of rest and recovery a good review as well.

Let's face it: Your body isn't a machine. While you might be able to keep it running like one if you give it the right attention and care, part of your fitness routine has to be about the rest and recovery that comes after a hard workout.

There are plenty of professional athletes who tout their workout schedules, saying they workout 7 days a week non-stop. However, with closer examination, you'll see that even professional Olympic-level athletes ease off for at least one day out of the week to help their body recover.

When you workout, your strain your muscles. When your muscles are strained, tiny tears appear in the fibers. It is when they fibers heal, growing back stronger than they were before, that you become stronger as a result of your workout. However, if you don't give your muscles the time (and nutrition) they need to heal, you are only going to end up injuring yourself. This is what often happens when people jump full-force into a new fitness routine that really pushes or even exceeds their personal limits.

What Should You Do After a Workout?

If you want to be able to achieve long-term, safe, and resilient levels of physical fitness, you need to choose a routine that comfortably pushes your current limits while also designing one that accounts for the rest and recovery your body desperately requires in order for you to keep pushing for your fitness goals.

The general rule of thumb is keying things back one day out of the week and pushing your limits (comfortably) on the other six. On this "rest day", you don't necessarily have to bar yourself from the gym, and you especially should not be using your rest day to pig-out. Instead, you should focus on doing some non-strenuous activities that will keep you moving. For instance, if you run 2 miles a day 6 days out of the week, go for a gentle walk or jog on your rest day instead. This keeps you moving but gives your muscles a bit of recovery time.

While factoring in rest and recovery time, you should also be factoring in how much warmup time your body may require. Also give your muscles the chance to warmup before a workout and, of course, the chance to cool down afterwards. This, in combination with a rest day one day out of the week, will help your body continue growing and improving in strength, endurance, and resiliency.

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