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Exercise Column

You get fitter between workouts - not during them

Contrary to popular belief you gain strength, power, endurance, tone, ... fitness after your workouts ends not during your workout. For that reason you have recovery workouts and recovery weeks.

Your recovery periods provide your body with the necessary time to adapt from your high-intensity workouts. This assumes you are giving your body the nutrients which are necessary for growth and repair, and not being exposed to excessive outside stressors.

Exercise, and your workouts, provide the stimulus for change. Exercise is a stress and the body can only handle so much stress before it breaks down. The body requires time to repair the damage which occurs during the workout - whether orthopedic, metabolic, structural, energetic.

Recovery workouts help speed the adaptations to training by acting as a "massage" to the muscles - flushing them with blood, providing necessary nutrients to the muscles at a faster rate than at rest, and removing metabolic waste products which are produced during intense workouts.

Recovery weeks allow your body's systems to fully adapt to the training load without adding additional stress (intensity). The changes that result in improved function take time, and the recovery week allows for those changes to occur.

Typically a recovery (or reduced volume) week follows three weeks of increasing overload. That fourth week is at a reduced volume, giving your systems time to adapt, allowing you to grow stronger without creating additional damage.

Since exercise is a stress, without recovery workouts, or weeks, the mind and body would break down, either mentally (losing motivation to workout) or physically (getting injured, sick, decreased function - where fitness actual drops rather than increases).

In order to maximize your workouts and gain the most from each one, recovery and proper nutrition are just as important as the workout itself. Neither aspect can be ignored - without training you won't create a stimulus for change, and without rest and time for recovery, your body won't adapt and improve its fitness.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 3.04.06