Fit Or Fiction: Do Workout Recovery Days Really Matter?

The Claim: Recovery is just for super-intense workouts and competition-ready athletes. For the Average Jane’s sweat sesh, there’s no need to take a day off.

The Fiction: We’ve busted the “No Pain, No Gain” myth wide open – and today, we’re debunking another one of the oldest, most antiquated Fit Myths around. If you’re not crazy sore or pushing yourself to the brink, there’s a common misconception that recovery is for the birds. In fact, workout recovery is one of the most important things you can do for your fitness.

The Facts: While it might seem like you’re doing nothing, recovery time is actually when your body reaps some of the biggest benefits from your workout de jour. You wouldn’t skimp on sleep in order to have more energy, be more efficient, or get to that next-level life, would you? It’s the same with workout recovery. Your recovery days are when your body processes what it just went through and your muscles repair themselves, building up stronger, more adept muscle fibers for you to use later – which means more efficiency, better burn in the long run. And yet most of us will power through our “recovery days” and jump back into high-intensity work right away.

Instead of focusing on how quickly you can recover, which can lead to decreased performance and major injury later, focus on how you can take advantage of your recover time to its fullest. Schedule in your recovery days at least once or twice a week (more for very active individuals), and if you’re very active, every five weeks or so take a full week to go easy on your body in which you alternate days of complete rest and active recovery (ie. walking, yoga, easy biking). Also keep in mind that larger muscle groups typically need a longer time to recover (quads and glutes, for example), larger quantities of muscles used at once need a longer time to recover (that full-body HIIT class comes to mind), and as you age, you’ll need more time to recover.

Recovery is the perfect time to weave foam rolling or Yoga Tune-Up balls into your routine, helping them repair from all the hard work they do throughout the week. There are a slew of supplements that do a post-workout body good, and specific foods you can eat to help heal your body and make it even stronger than when you started. Here’s what 21 of our favorite fitness pros eat, and eight of our favorite superfood-packed post workout snacks.

The Verdict: Slow and steady doesn’t win the race – slow, steady, and smart takes home the gold. No need to give up your high-intensity workout jam. Just schedule in your days of recovery each week so that those workouts are truly bringing you to your maximum potential.

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