A closer look at: regeneration

Trying to up your training game? Consider adding a good break to your workout schedule. Regeneration is not only essential to improve performance, it is also a good tool to prevent injuries and support general well being. By Christina Nettek

It’s a familiar situation for many people: you train and exercise intensively but don’t get the results you want. Sooner or later you start to wonder if you’re doing something wrong or maybe need to increase your training programme. So you keep going to the gym and working out, maybe even add an extra session to your weekly routine, but still nothing’s happening. It gets increasingly frustrating and eventually you may get to the point where you lose interest in working out at all. But in fact the reason why you’re not succeeding is very simple. Sometimes what your body needs is time for regeneration.

Regeneration time is essential

If you don’t give your body a break between training sessions, you may actually be damaging your health. Joint pain, poor sleep, tension and stiffness are just some of the symptoms you may notice if you don’t allow enough time for recovery. You may also suffer more frequent infections and illnesses. Because of course exercising uses energy – your body’s energy and strength. Muscles, tendons and joints get tired and need to rest – just like we need to sleep at the end of the day. If your body doesn’t get a chance for recovery and regeneration, eventually this can actually have disastrous effects on your health.

“Nothing helps us make progress better than to take a rest.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What happens to your body when you work out

Anyone who does a lot of sport knows that it has a physiological impact on their whole body. Extreme physical demands on our bodies, such as in weight training, are likely to cause micro-lesions in the muscle system. These are microscopic tears in the tendons and muscles. These small-scale injuries are the cause of muscle soreness after intensive training sessions. So what might sound strange to many people, is actually entirely natural. This is how the body functions. Working out may seem like it hurts the body at first, but eventually it makes our muscles stronger and larger, and increases muscle density.

Better results when training allows for regeneration

This natural development of the muscle system only functions properly if we give the body time for recovery and regeneration. Every muscle needs time to recover after working out. Only in this way is the “damage” able to heal, so that the muscle system is ready to brace itself for the next training session. Exercise itself is not the only thing that energises the body and spirit. Recuperation in between sessions is also crucial for increased strength, better results and improving health and fitness. That is why we need to allow our bodies time for proper rest at regular intervals. Good recuperation can work wonders.

“The rests are part of the music too.” Stefan Zweig

Helpful tips for proper regeneration

It is immensely important to plan your rest time after exercise sessions, just as carefully as you plan the training itself. As a general rule – the more intensive your training session is, the longer the regeneration phase should be. You should certainly always allow at least 2-3 days per week when you don’t work out. A simple cool-down period after exercise allows the recovery process to start straight away. Correct nutrition is important too – a high-protein snack can be absorbed best by the body in the first 45 minutes after you work out. Healthy nutrition and plenty of sleep are extremely important and help speed muscular regeneration.

How much regeneration time do I need?

There is no hard and fast rule, as there are many different factors that affect the speed of recovery. These include age, body weight, training level, overall health and how you are feeling on the day. Normally most people can judge for themselves, as long as they listen to what their body tells them. Here are some of the most important indicators:

  • Do my legs and arms feel heavy?
  • Do my muscles still ache?
  • Do I feel fit and agile or worn out?
  • Climbing stairs and carrying heavy loads are no problem.
  • I feel relaxed, cheerful and strong.
  • I feel like I want to work out!

But one thing is certain – without regeneration time it won’t do any good. It’s not just healthy for your body – it’s essential for successful training. Just being lazy for a while is not enough, however – effective regeneration also needs a healthy lifestyle, including plenty of sleep and a balanced diet. A complete and comprehensive training programme needs the ideal balance of exercise and recuperation.

Stay tuned for next week’s article, where sports physiotherapist Monika answers the most burning questions about the benefits of taking a break, a good ratio for regeneration and shares helpful advice on how to support your body on rest days.

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