Many athletes know that getting enough rest and recovery after exercise is essential to maintain performance. Even so many still over train and feel guilty when taking rest days. The body repairs, recovers and strengthens itself in the time between workouts.
Rest days are vital for a variety of reasons, some are physiological and some are psychological. Rest days can also help recreational athletes maintain a balance between work, home and fitness goals.
Ensuring a good night’s sleep is vital to performance during the daytime regardless of activity. If sleep is cut short the body doesn’t have time to complete all the stages required for muscle repair, release of hormones and memory consolidation.
Recovery time is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real effect of training takes place. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body, depleting energy stores, fluids and breaking down muscle tissue. Recovery time allows the body to replenish these energy stores and repair damaged tissue, not allowing the body to recover, repair and replenish sufficiently, will lead to symptoms of overtraining! Symptoms such as staleness, depression, decreased performance, general malaise, increased risk of injury among others.
Recent studies suggest that sleep deprivation leads to increases in Cortisol (Stress Hormone), decrease the activity of human growth hormone (essential for tissue repair) and also decrease’s the production of glycogen, carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during exercise and physical activity.
Lets be honest in general one or two poor nights sleep isn’t going to have much of an impact upon performance, but consistently having inadequate sleep can and will lead to subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, mood and muscle recovery!
To conclude, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy levels and poor focus during the day. Further studies suggest that co-ingestion of large amounts of caffeine with carbohydrates post exhausting workouts rapidly replenishes glycogen (the muscle’s primary fuel source).
There are many tips and techniques to avoid over-training and to ensure you are getting the right balance between exercise, rest and recovery. Two very simple but affective ways are to keep a training diary/log and also pay attention to how your body’s feeling and your motivation levels.