Recovery is a big part of exercise regime. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked and can lead to discomfort and injuries.

Rest days are a critical factor when you’re working hard to improve your fitness. Exercise, by its very nature, breaks down the muscle in order to build it back up stronger and more fit. The process of healing and recovery requires good nutrition, proper hydration and significant rest.

Most everyone has experienced sore muscles. Being sore after a beginner workout is a common story. What’s happening to cause this soreness?

If you’ve been sedentary and you work out for the first time, it’s easy to do too much exercise. Your muscles are working harder than they’re used to. The muscle fibers are slightly damaged resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness. The damaged fibers heal over the next few days, but you can be sore during the healing process. If you keep exercising, the muscles continue to build up to become more fit.

There’s a difference between sore muscles from working out and actual injuries. It’s easy to mistake a pulled muscle with a sore muscle. Strained muscles can occur when you don’t allow for proper recuperation after you workout. The body doesn’t have enough time to heal and stays broken down. Eventually something gives and you strain something. It’s painful.

Recuperation starts during the exercise phase. A proper warm up is important to get the blood flowing and the muscles and joints warm and ready. Stretching and cooling down after a workout is also important. Think of warming up and cooling down as part of your recuperation cycle.

Short-term recovery happens in the hours immediately after you exercise. Your body is going to be looking for energy because of your workout session. Replenishing the energy with healthy energy is going to speed up your recovery. Your post-exercise meal should include protein for muscle recovery and carbohydrates for energy recovery.

Long-term recovery happens over the next couple of days. Proper hydration is critical to recovery. Most important is sleep. Nearly half of Americans don’t get enough sleep. It’s recommended you sleep 8 to 10 hours a night to be fully rested. When you sleep, your body heals. If you don’t sleep well, you don’t heal as well. Sleep deprivation can greatly hinder your progress.

Nutrition is also critical to the recovery process. Your body heals from the nutrients provided in the bloodstream. Eat healthy and in the proper ratio of macro nutrients. Give your body the healing power it needs through your nutrition.

Over time your body adapts to your exercise program and you need to increase the stress on the body to continue to become stronger and healthier. As you exercise harder or longer, your body needs more recuperation. If you don’t recuperate properly you run the risk of injury.

It’s important to think of your recuperation as part of your exercise routine. If you exercise four days per week, focus on rest and recuperation the other three days. Focus on your post-workout recovery and take care of your short term recovery needs. Then shift into your daily, long-term recovery to ensure continuous recuperation.

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