The importance of rest and recovery for athletes

Rest and recovery is an important aspect of an exercise program, especially for high level athletes.

Athletes understand the importance of exercise training for optimal performance and improvement. However, rest and recovery is also an important aspect of an exercise program because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts. It also allows the athlete to recover, both physically and psychologically.

What happens during the recovery period? The body is allowed to adapt to the stress associated with exercise, replenishes muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair.

There are two different categories of recovery:

  1. Immediate or short-term recovery – This is the most common form of recovery and occurs within hours after an exercise session or event. Short-term recovery includes low intensity exercise after working out and during the cool down phase.
  2. Long-term recovery – This refers to recovery periods that are built into a seasonal training schedule and may include days or weeks incorporated into an annual athletic program.

Sleep is another important aspect of rest and recovery when it comes to sports performance. Athletes who are sleep deprived are at risk of losing aerobic endurance and may experience subtle changes in hormone levels, which can lead to higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) as well as a decrease in human growth hormone, which is active during tissue repair.

If you are a high level athlete or have a family member that is involved in a sport that requires a higher level of fitness, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you monitor workouts with a training log. A training log can assist you in keeping track of how the body feels after an exercise session – this will help in determining recovery needs and whether or not the training program should be modified.

The following websites provide more information about rest and recovery after exercise:

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