We’ve already talked about how training is stress that the body can recover from. In order to make the gain from each session as impactful as possible, you need to prepare well. Preparation helps fuel your workout, and equally important, preparation for the next workout in the form of recovery also needs to be understood and practiced well.
As far as workouts are concerned, food is fuel. Carbohydrates, especially complex carbohydrates, provide the energy needed for a workout. Sweet potato, wholewheat pasta, or wholewheat rice are good sources. Protein is good fuel too. White fish, shellfish, and chicken are especially good, likewise whey protein shakes. However, food is especially important for recovery after the workout. Protein is needed to rebuild muscle, and vegetables are needed to boost the immune system.
Hydration is obviously important. Replace what you sweat out. More than this it’s needed for functioning muscle activity.
Live while you’re alive, sleep when you’re dead? Not so much. There’s a good reason why elite athletes like Roger Federer sleep more than 10 hours a day. You build muscle during sleep. Food and water prepare your body for the workout, and provide the raw materials for recovery, but sleep is when the magic actually happens.
A good workout will leave your body sore, and make you feel weaker than before you exercised. The duration of rest will depend on the training schedule, but if you’re doing hard strength training on your core, near to 100% of your capacity e.g. bench press, deadlifts, or squats, then you should leave about 48 hours before training again. Just like sleep, rest is part of the recovery process. Moving on to the next session before you’ve adequately recovered from the previous one will not be maximising the progressive benefit.
You may have heard the phrase, “The only bad workout is the one you don’t do.” Certain elite athletes will train no matter how injured or ill they are e.g. Mo Farah. This may work for those of us who are superhuman but my advice is to listen to your body. There’s a difference between DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and pulled muscles, or damaged ligaments. Some injuries require rest, some require intervention like stretching or ice/heat packs. If in doubt, a session with a good sports physiotherapist for injuries, or sports massage for aches and twinges, is a brilliant investment in yourself.