Exercise is hard work. But letting your body recover after a workout is an equally important discipline.

During workouts and training, the body is put through a process of intense stress and breakdown. Hence it needs sufficient time to cope and build back. A muscle that has not fully recovered will weaken, leading to a drop in performance levels, leaving you prone to injuries and, in the end, a muscle breakdown.

Exercise beginners must take time out to rest every third day. Your body, being subject to new intensity, may not be able to handle the stress on a continuous basis daily. Continuing without rest will definitely cause fatigue. Listen to the signs your body offers (you feel weak, experience muscle tightness or decreased performance levels), take time off. The soreness may set in immediately or maybe at a later time, say, 12 to 24 hours after the workout (it’s called DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). It is a classic beginners’ response to muscle stress, and can last up to a few days or even a week.

Once your exercise regimen becomes routine, you are less susceptible to DOMS. But you will continue to experience muscle tenderness, joint stiffness. If it becomes too painful to touch or when you sneeze, your joint pains, then try the recovery strategies I’m recommending below:

Five ways to recover

Hydrate

Dehydration is one of the biggest inhibitors to good recovery. The best ways to figure out if you are dehydrated is by checking your urine colour a couple of hours after you workout. It has to be clear or light yellow. If it is dark yellow, you need some serious hydration. It is also wise to drink 20 to 25 oz of water every hour of workout depending on your intensity and sweating. Hydrate with water; don’t reach for those sports drink just because you like the taste. Processing the flavourings and additives they contain puts pressure on the body.

Eat

Ideally you need to eat within one hour of your workout. The body is in a catabolic state at this point and needs sufficient carbs and protein to refuel the system. Opt for a complete balanced meal within one hour of your workout or carry a protein shake with you to sip at the end of your routine. How your body repairs itself depends on the nutrition you provide for it. Processed food and drinks simply create toxins in your system, doing more harm than good.

Compression

Cool down stretches, massages, foam rollers are all great ways to wring out excess soreness. Easing out the fascia (connective tissue fibers, like collagen) with foam rollers can release muscle tension and stiffness which will enable better blood and fluid flow to the area for a quicker repair.

Blood circulation

Stretches, light activity like swimming, cycling, slow walks, alternating between a hot and cold water shower for 30 to 60 seconds, ice packs, easy exercise routines, etc all help improve blood flow to the muscle.

Sleep

Most of the recovery happens during sleep time. Around 7 to 10 hours of sleep is considered good, depending on individual requirements. Sleep in the most natural setting as possible with lights out and wake up with the sun.

If the symptoms I’ve described as signs that your body needs to recover persist even after following these tips I’ve given, you may need more time to recover or revisit your training routine. Opt for a milder workout.

Don’t ignore what your body is telling you. After all, who wouldn’t want to sleep, rest, relax and eat post a pounding workout!

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Written by Roshini Gilbert

Roshini Gilbert

After a diligent workout plan helped her lose 30kg of post-pregnancy weight, chartered accountant Roshini Gilbert was inspired enough to go from tallying numbers to training others. A freelance personal trainer today, Roshini has been certified by the American Council on Exercises (ACE) for functional fitness and specialises in post-natal weight loss, exercises for low back pain, arthritis and osteoporosis. She also has REHAB Trainer certification from Australia for rehabilitative exercises and has trained with reputed sports physiotherapist Ulrik Larsen in corrective exercises and injury management. In HealthifyMe, Roshini has found a collaborator with a common cause – making people fit to live life to the fullest. Her assessment of how fit you are is based on three broad guidelines — stamina, body age (a person who looks way older than his age can’t be deemed healthy) and lifestyle (beware, those with bad eating habits and sedentary behaviour). Prepare yourself mentally first and then your body will follow, she says, of the opinion that if you want to change something about yourself then you need to challenge yourself to do it. Are you up for it?

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