Athletes know full well that overworking their bodies will not be good for their performance. In fact, sufficient rest is an important part of their training regimen. There is no reason to feel any guilt for taking a break nor is there a need to over-train.

All it leads to is exhaustion and eventually results in weakening and poor performance. Giving the body time to repair and recover, on the other hand, leads to better results.

The benefits of rest go beyond the physiological, with the mind and soul being able to regenerate as well after a tough workout. At this time, the muscles get to repair and become stronger again, and there can be time for other aspects in life beyond fitness.

Time at home or with loved ones tends to be affected when an athlete works out too often. In fact, without rest and recovery, one can fall victim to overtraining syndrome, which can be tough to recover from.

What Happens During Rest?

Any form of exercise brings stress to the body. Recovery time allows the body to adapt to this stress so that it becomes stronger next time. This is why you notice your body being able to do more sets or finish them earlier over time. This does not happen during continuous training, but when you actually take a break.

At this time, the body also gets to replenish those depleted energy stores. Damaged tissues will repair themselves as well. These happen naturally when working out, so giving the body time to recover is of the highest importance.

Over time, your body will break down when subjected to continuous intensive exercise. When you do not take the time to rest, you will notice symptoms of overtraining. This includes poorer sports performance, a higher risk of getting injured, tiredness, and depression.

Two Kinds of Recovery

Short-term Recovery

Also called active recovery, this is what happens just a few hours after you stop working out. This includes doing low-intensity exercise after an intense workout and doing a cool-down phase.

Your body will immediately start replenishing energy stores and fluids that it lost while working out. Soft tissues get repaired and built-up chemicals are removed during this phase as well.

Protein synthesis, or the process of increasing the muscles’ protein content, occurs at this stage. This prevents muscle breakdown and leads to bigger muscles. To stimulate this process, you need to eat the right foods after the exercises.

Long-term Recovery

Professional athletes who train all year long have seasonal training programs that incorporate long-term recovery strategies. This means recovery days and weeks are plotted out during the whole year. This step is just as important as trying out different exercise regimens and changing up the intensity of the routine.

Only by sticking to this plan can an athlete really achieve their optimum performance. While pushing their bodies to achieve new highs is important, planned recovery plays a huge role as well. Training logs are a good way to monitor if enough time is being given for recovery, but listening to your body is another good tip.


The road to fitness has its highs and lows. At times, you can feel motivated or you can be too tired to push on. Remember your goals and go for a balanced plan that incorporates rest and recovery.

Emma Pyke
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