Day 14 of 31-Day Series “Your Last Health Resolution”

If you’ve honed in on a fitness goal, you probably want to put yourself on the fast track to achieving it.  If so, I love your enthusiasm!  Just make sure you approach it with some understanding of the science behind your training.

Muscles need time to recover.  Most people think muscle development happens during a workout.  In actuality, your workout only breaks them down.  The rest period after your workout allows them to develop.  So how much rest do you need for muscle recovery?

Man Rubbing His Shoulder MuscleDepending on the type of training, your muscles could take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to recover.  And your recovery time depends not only on your training but on a number of factors including your age, your nutrition intake, your current muscular condition, and your VO2 max.  Your best bet is to start and listen to how your body responds.  Don’t let muscle soreness scare you off.  Whenever you initiate new training or change your frequency or intensity, you’ll most likely experience it.  It’s a good sign. 

As I’ve said before, consistency is key.  Too long a break will work against you.  You can see muscle atrophy happen within 96 hours of not working out.  A strength loss of 10% can occur after a week, according to the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. 

So what do you do if too much is not good and too little is worse? 

Rotate your muscle groups.  Train your legs and shoulders one day and chest and back the next.  That gives your muscles time to heal while you continue training.  And if you use high intensity intervals for cardio (and you should), mix in lower intensity workouts in between to allow for recovery.

About Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will happen if you train properly.  That’s my opinion.  If you never experience soreness, your body is operating in its comfort zone.  In other words, it won’t change. 

So what do you do with the soreness?  Work around it.  Fitness professionals, including myself, used to advocate stretching to help alleviate soreness.  The most recent research proves stretching has great benefits, but helping prevent or relieve soreness is not one of them.  So work a different muscle group, or do some light activity to increase blood flow and speed repair in those sore muscles.