When you are crushing it in the gym, it’s all about good recovery if you want to make fitness strides and smash through your goals. You probably already know this. But, did you ever consider you may need to look at your workout recovery a bit differently as you age to ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to excel?
From the minute you are born, your body starts to age (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). And, when it comes to workout recovery time, age can affect how fast you snap back from your workouts and how you recover. Learning to adapt to how your body functions and changes over time can mean the difference between making progress and plateauing with your workouts.
What is Body Aging?
You hear the term “aging” thrown around quite a bit, but what, exactly, does aging entail, and what does it mean for you? From your visual appearance to the physical changes taking place in your body, if you’re lucky enough to be alive, then you’re in the process of aging.
Aging, also called “senescence,” is the gradual process whereby cells slowly lose their ability to divide and grow. The functions of the cells (and the entire organism) begin to decelerate and, eventually, stop. Part of the process of aging is that your body’s ability to repair itself slowly begins to taper off over time, and it may take a bit longer to heal than it did when you were younger. Don’t panic. It’s a slow process. But it is something you should be aware of, especially as you continue to strive toward fitness and health goals.
Why Resistance Training Builds Strength
You’re most likely familiar with “training” (working out, exercise), but the flip side of training is “recovery.” What does recovery mean? Think of “recovering from an injury.” The injury occurs, and then it takes a specified amount of time for your body to adjust to the trauma, heal, and get back to a place where you have regained full functionality. Resistance training presents a similar scenario, but on a much, much smaller, and healthier, scale.
When you exercise, you cause microscopic trauma to your muscles and even your bones. This is normal and does not mean you are injured. Ironically, these microtears are necessary for you to build stronger bones and add muscle mass to your physique. In fact, there are two theories that posit that your bones will adapt and become physically stronger and less porous (Wolff’s Law) and your tissues will remold, heal, and strengthen (Davis’ Law) according to the stressors placed upon them. So, when you tear things up in the gym, your body then goes into repair and recovery mode, which is how resistance training works.
While it’s clear that your bones and muscles experience trauma during a workout, it is the healing process (the recovery) that is so critical to monitor if you want to make forward progress, especially as you get older. It’s critical because your body’s processes, including healing, can begin to slow over the years, and you may need a little more time than you used to in order to recover (heal) completely from your workout sessions.
5 Hacks to Boost Workout Recovery As You Age
It is logical that if you can recover better and more quickly, then you should be able to train harder, thus making greater gains in your fitness journey and smashing through plateaus. So, how do you ensure you maximize your ability to recover and do it as quickly as possible?
How can you develop a good routine that will keep you on track for the best recovery possible at any age? Follow these five steps to optimize your body’s ability to rest, workout recovery, and rejuvenate after intense workouts:
As you age, your bones become more brittle, and your muscles, tendons, and ligaments become less supple. Staying limber is a huge benefit when it comes to preventing injury. Being flexible can help you in your daily life but will also help you in the gym.
Supple muscles and ligaments will have a little more “give” to them and are less likely to be strained during your workout sessions. Also, proper flexibility can help you keep a balanced body, good posture, and avoid pain. Avoid the stiffness that comes with age by including some kind of stretching in your everyday routine, especially after workouts.
Yes, we’re talking about sleep, but we’re also talking about time between the training of body parts (and how you train those areas when you do). Since you may not recover quite as quickly from a stressful workout, it may be prudent to make sure you always get a great warm up and a nice cooldown before and after every workout.
Taking enough time between working the same muscle groups again is also a good idea. There’s no hard and fast rule against working a sore muscle, but it may be a nice rule of thumb to follow. If your muscles are still sore from your last workout, give them another day of rest.
Also, it probably goes without saying, but you really will benefit from good quality, plentiful sleep. This is the time period when your body heals and rejuvenates. The better your sleep, the better your recovery.
#3 Eat Well
Feeding the machine should be a priority. If you want to speed up your recovery time between workouts, try fueling your body with high-quality, whole, natural foods. Ditch the processed and chemical laden choices and stick with the healthy building blocks that will give your body the advantage.
Make sure to include plenty of protein in your diet as well (approximately one gram of protein per pound if you’re engaged in resistance training). With the typical natural loss of muscle mass every year as we age, building and replenishing that muscle mass should be a priority. Don’t forget, it’s important to take in the nutrients your body needs, so you can recover as quickly as possible.
As mentioned above, as you age, your body tends to become more brittle, and this makes staying hydrated all the more important. Most folks walk around in a constant state of dehydration. Ensuring you provide your body with plenty of water will go a long way toward helping your body heal and rejuvenate as quickly as possible.
#5 Always Use Proper Form
If you do things the right way, and don’t stress, strain, or injure yourself, it goes without saying that your recovery will be a lot easier. Just because you may not be quite as strong or quite as fast as you used to be doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself and still get in great workouts. The point is to work out smarter. Always make sure you are using proper form, so you’re working the muscles and not straining tendons and ligaments. Remember to keep your ego in check: it’s not how much weight you lift; it’s how you lift the weight.
If you want to intensify your workouts, try using slower negatives on your repetitions instead of throwing around more weight. Cut the rest time between sets down for a more intense (and fat-burning) workout, and try doing a lot of warm up sets before going all out with a heavy round.
With a few minor adjustments along the way and a smart approach to your fitness lifestyle and workouts, there’s no reason why you can’t maximize your training while minimizing your workout recovery time.