Top 4 recovery day mistakes to avoid

August 4, 2014

You may think of your home gym equipment as a sanctuary where you can escape the day’s stress, have some alone time and enjoy a really great session on your elliptical machine.

A successful sweat sesh is plenty of motivation to keep you dedicated to your weekly fitness routine, especially if you’re working toward an end goal. When you add in the improved mood, better sleep and better body image, it’s easy to spend extra time pounding your home treadmill’s belt.

Even so, taking recovery days during the week can be just as important as the exercise itself to ensure that you don’t overtrain, which can lead to injuries, overly sore muscles and muscle imbalance. When you’re trying to meet a goal – whether it’s to get stronger, run longer or lose weight – you might become so focused on the workouts that you forget about resting. However, taking the time to relax your body and mind is crucial for your ultimate success in achieving your goals.

When planning out each week with your exercise schedule, be sure to plan for at least one or two recovery days, and try to avoid these mistakes:

Indulging on too many carbs
When you’re exercising, you need carbohydrates to fuel your muscles and help them function properly, but on rest days you don’t need that extra boost. Eating too many carbs on a day when you’re not working out may cause them to turn to fat instead. On recovery days, you should focus on a healthy, low-carb meal plan.

“If your main goal is weight loss,” Albert Matheny, co-founder and trainer at Soho Strength Lab and a registered dietician, told Women’s Health magazine. “Limiting your carbohydrate intake can help you reach that goal.”

Not consuming enough protein
Protein is necessary for muscle recovery and growth, so it’s important to eat plenty of it, especially on rest days. After a few days of serious exercise on your stationary bike, your body and muscles will need major refueling in the form of calories, and protein in one of the best sources. Protein helps you maintain lean muscle mass and ensures that you’ll feel better and stronger during your next session.

Ignoring your body
On days when you have a work out scheduled, it’s easy to focus on your body. You’re working to challenge your muscles, mind and endurance levels in order to get better and stronger, so you tune in to what your body is saying and push to achieve your goals. However, on recovery days, it can be easy to overlook that necessary640 attention, especially if you don’t remember to cool down and stretch post-workout. On rest days, it’s a good idea to get or give yourself a massage to loosen up knots and kinks and relieve sore muscles. For runners and cyclists, this is especially important in your iliotibial (IT) bands, calves, quads, hamstrings and feet. You can treat yourself to a professional massage or use a foam roller to work out these muscles.

Your sleep schedule gets thrown off
Quality sleep each night is imperative for your body to function properly with regular exercise and a healthy diet. But if your sleep schedule gets thrown off on recovery days, it can affect the rest of the week.

“[Sleep is] definitely one of the most important recovery strategies,” Dr. Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, a post-doctoral fellow in exercise science at Columbia University, told Women’s Health magazine. {link to source} He added that a lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of stress, so maintaining a regular schedule with wake and sleep times is important for overall health and wellness.