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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

Give it a Rest: Why You Need Workout Recovery After Exercise

We’ve all been there: You’ve got a brand new goal, gadget, or killer pair of running shoes, and you’re just dying to put in the reps seven days a week until you reach that next level of fitness. But without proper rest, that daily determination could do more harm than good. Let’s talk about it.

Person resting in hammock with dog after exercise; workout recovery

We All Need Workout Recovery 

Whether you’re an elite athlete or completely new to the fitness world, you need rest between your workouts, and we’re not just talking about nightly sleep. Every training program—running, weightlifting, cycling, swimming, and so on—stresses our bodies, and that’s okay.

That critical rest time between workouts allows our muscles to repair, our cardiovascular systems to adjust to the new workload, and our bodies to return to a “rest and digest” state.

The Risks of Overtraining

But when we don’t carve out enough time to recover from those stresses, we may find ourselves facing overtraining syndrome, which at some point affects about 30% of non-elite endurance athletes and a whopping 60% of elite endurance athletes.

Overtraining syndrome can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Dehydration

  • Overuse injuries or injuries that are slow to heal

  • Elevated resting heart rate

  • Anxiety and cortisol spikes

  • Mood and sleep disturbances

  • Lower libido

  • Increases in body fat

  • Weakening of the immune system

While it may be tempting to fully attack a workout routine when your motivation is highest, these long-term risks can outweigh the rewards, especially when an overtraining injury or illness could leave you sidelined entirely.

Goals, Not Guilt: Finding the Balance Between Work and Rest

Woman doing yoga; workout recovery

So, what can we do to keep motivation high while still ensuring we get enough rest time? Aside from getting enough sleep and taking full rest days when needed, health and wellness experts encourage active recovery, which incorporates low-stress, low-impact activities that keep you moving and help alleviate soreness.

Popular active recovery routines include:

  • Walking

  • Stretching

  • Yoga and tai chi

  • Foam rolling

  • Easy cycling

  • Easy swimming

Whatever active recovery routine you choose, it’s essential to keep the intensity low and refrain from overworking the muscles you use during higher-intensity days.


And don’t let your nutrition slip through the cracks, either. Your body needs balanced fuel to replenish your energy and build your muscles. So, while you can absolutely treat yourself to a cheeseburger here and there, it might be best to avoid a regular pattern of “earning” junk food by way of intense training.

Workout Recovery Resources

If you’re unsure how to build a balanced workout and recovery program or want to learn more about preventing overtraining, here are a few additional resources below to start with:

And, of course, you should consult your primary care doctor before undertaking a new program or if you think you may be suffering from overtraining.


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