Regeneration - The importance of Proper Rest

By Ryan Jones, DPT, CSCS

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We all know the great benefits of exercise; we know and love the feeling of getting stronger, faster and even losing weight. It's those results that persuade us to drive harder each and every workout. We think the more we push ourselves, the better our results will be. But is it possible that you are doing too much? When was the last time you truly thought about resting as an integral, if not the most important, part of your workout regimen?  

Overtraining is "a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. One can cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness." The key to avoiding overtraining is through proper rest and incorporating a regeneration phase into your workout plan. Proper regeneration allows your body to recover in order to maximize your potential for future workouts. Without rest and regeneration, you may actually be limiting your body's capabilities, as well as increasing your own risk for injury.   

While it is easy to understand the importance of exercise it may be difficult to appreciate the need for rest. Yet the more educated you are about your body the higher the likelihood of success with your training regimen...so let's get geeky and do some learning.  

Your body's ability to perform at its highest levels involves being able to effectively and efficiently create energy known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). During your workout, your body depletes its various energy stores, breaking down skeletal muscle tissue and increasing lactate and protons within your cells as a byproduct of your exercise. Short periods of rest allow partial recovery of these systems. That's why rest during workouts, as well as between workouts, is important. 

If you ignore your body's needs and continue to exercise vigorously without adequate rest, your body will gradually lose its ability to create this energy. The cumulative stress of exercise to your muscle tissue and nervous system demands an appropriate recovery and regeneration plan - which could mean taking up to one week to properly rest your body.

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There are two types of rest - active and passive. Passive rest/recovery involves massage or sitting in a tub of ice/hot water. It allows for mental relaxation and true rest for your entire system. Active rest/recovery involves performing lower intensity exercise designed to improve your body's ability to create energy and allow proper recovery of skeletal muscle damage, as well as facilitate removal of lactate and protons. It can involve some light activities such as golf or shooting hoops. Active recovery also should involve light flexibility training such as yoga, foam rolling and deep breathing. Other vital aspects of recovery and regeneration include adequate sleep and good nutrition.  

Clearly rest is as important as exercise. Take a look at your workout program and schedule some down time to maximize your potential.  

"You may not appreciate the presence of good health, but you will definitely regret the absence of good health, because health is happiness."  - Amit Kalantri