The Importance of Rest After Cardio Workouts

There is no doubt that cardiovascular exercise provides a number of key health benefits. It strengthens your body, improves your endurance, increases circulation, reduces stress and helps your heart stay strong and healthy. However, it is possible to overdo it. Giving your body adequate time to recover after intense workouts is every bit as important as the workouts themselves. Without proper recovery, your body winds up in a continual state of stress, which in turn leads to plateaus in your conditioning program. To understand why this happens, it is important to first understand how the body builds muscles and endurance.

Weight bearing exercises create tiny tears in your muscles. As these tiny tears heal, new muscle tissue is built, leading to stronger muscles. However, if you don’t take time to rest, the damage to your muscle tissue will never have time to heal and will just continue to break down. This is known as overtraining. If you have been lifting weights and doing intense cardio workouts, but aren’t seeing the results you were expecting, it could be that you are not giving your body adequate time to heal and recover.

Intense cardiovascular exercise also puts a strain on your body by pushing your heart and circulatory system to work harder than they are used to. Much like the muscles in the rest of your body, these systems also need time to recover. During rest, your internal systems become stronger so they can handle the stress of future workouts. This means that if you don’t give your body time to rebuild it will be stuck in a perpetual state of stress, making it difficult to move beyond your current level of fitness.

Inadequate rest and recovery after intense cardio workouts can result in plateaus both in terms of your conditioning and your overall performance. When your muscles and body systems are fatigued, it is impossible to achieve maximum performance.

Ideally, you should give your muscles as much as 48 hours to rest after an intense weight bearing workout. However, your abdominal muscles are an exception to this rule. These muscles tend to recover quickly and can be worked daily. Taking one day off to rest after high intensity cardio workout usually gives your body enough time to recover. However, particularly intense workouts may require even more downtime than that.

Along with resting your muscles and internal systems, it is important to provide your body with the right kinds of fuel during your recovery period. High quality protein and complex carbohydrates give your muscles the nutrition they need to stay strong and healthy. If you are working at a particular high intensity level, you may also want to consider supplementing with protein powder to replenish the amino acids required to rebuild muscle tissue lost during a workout.

Hydration is also an important part of recovery. Water plays a key role in moving nutrients throughout your body and supporting your metabolic functions. Adequate water intake helps improve the performance of every major system in your body, speeding recovery.

Another way to help your body heal after intense cardio exercise is by stretching. Gentle stretching increases circulation to your muscles, helping to reduce soreness and speed recovery. Not only does this allow you to get back to exercising more quickly, but it also helps improve flexibility, lessening the chance of future injury. An added benefit of stretching right after a workout is that it helps calm your mind and center your body, preparing it for the rest and recovery phase.

Taking the time to properly rest after a cardio workout is essential. Scheduling adequate recovery time into your workout routine is the best way to get the results you want.