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Exercise Column

Fitness is gained after workouts not during them

A common belief is that you are gaining fitness - getting stronger, faster, endurance, etc. - during your workout.

In actuality, as I've mentioned before, exercise is a stress. During the workout you stress the systems involved in the activity: you break down energy stores in order to perform the activity, create micro-damage to the working muscles and connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, & joints), and alter the local internal environment all of which creates the stimulus for change.

It is during the time between workouts, during your recovery, when your body adapts and gets fitter.

A gain in fitness assumes several key factors:

1) The stress level imposed is appropriate - not too great, or too little.

2) You allow adequate time between the first workout (initial stress) and next one (subsequent stress). One common practice to speed recovery is to perform light activity or recovery workouts between intense efforts to enhance and speed the recovery and repair process.

3) You do not have too many other "outside" stressors. They add up, lack of sleep, emotional stress, a cold or illness, even an unrelated injury reduce your body's resistance and its overall ability to adapt.

4) You provide your body with the proper nutrients for growth and repair. Your body needs additional fuels to repair the damage created during the workout and to re-supply the depleted energy stores.

5) You get the food in quickly after a workout. Research has shown that timing is important to full recovery. There is a "window of opportunity" during the first two hours post exercise when you must get appropriate carbs, protein, and fluid into your body in order to fully recover by the next day's workout.

To make sure you benefit most from the time you spend working out make sure you allow for plenty of recovery time and get the proper foods into your system. Make the most of the time your spending working out by paying attention to what you do in the time between them.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 3.01.06