Gym goers love to focus on the workout itself. We obsess about how often we work out, how long we work out, what exercises we do, and if we’re really smart, how HARD we work out. But even well intended exercisers err by failing to allow adequate recovery between workouts (particularly strength workouts). Our fervor for creating better results causes us to do the one thing that will effectively erode our progress: We sneak in an extra workout instead of allowing for complete recovery. At Discover Strength, we see this every day. A client who really wants to expedite his or her progress will tell us. “I’m a little sore because I did a few exercises yesterday at the gym.” Let me be clear. This is the worst thing you can do if you are interested in maximizing results. The strength-training (and by strength training, I mean any type of resistance training; this includes but is not limited to push-ups, a single sit-up, band exercises, or body weight exercises) workout is a STIMULUS. There is no real fitness benefit that occurs during the workout itself.
The benefit comes during the recovery from the workout. Often times, we can become addicted to the “high” of the workout itself. We literally feel better about ourselves during the workout and immediately after the workout (and usually, the rest of the day). This can become a powerful addiction. However, the workout itself does not produce results. Instead, the workout simply STIMULATES results. The results occur if and when we recover from the workout. And by recover, I mean COMPLETELY AVOID RESISTANCE. It is during this recovery that our lean muscle tissue undergoes histological (tissue remodeling) and morphological (growth in the muscle) changes. It is important to remember that the stimulus to improve our fitness and our physiques, in one word, is INTENSITY. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can make up for a lack of intensity by doing MORE exercise or exercising more frequently. You cannot. This has important implications for your mindset during the workout and specifically, during the exercise set itself. At the point of fatigue, when you are breathing hard, your muscles are burning, and every part of you wants to stop (or even just relieve tension for a second), you must arm yourself with the knowledge that that very instant is what it’s all about. What you do in that moment will largely dictate the effectiveness of the exercise stimulus. If, during your recovery days, you find yourself craving more exercise or extra workouts, you would be wise to channel this emotion into the INTENSITY toward the end of each set of exercise that you perform.
If you are interested in receiving even better results from your workouts, I pose the question, HOW MUCH ARE YOU FOCUSING ON YOUR RECOVERY?
One last note about recovery: Although the most important aspect of recovery is avoidance of resistance training of any kind for a minimum of 2-3 days following a workout, a few other factors can play a role in recovery. These include sleep (tissue remodeling takes place during deep sleep), post-exercise protein consumption (20-30 grams immediately following the workout), and adequate intake of protein (as well as a balanced diet in general) throughout the day (aiming for 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight).