How long does it take to recover from exercise?
Sufficient recovery is extremely important in sport. Every gym-goer is bound to have heard different messages about the recovery period after endurance or strength training. People mostly talk about a day’s break, but often that’s not enough! Below we have listed the recovery times for trained and untrained sportspeople, aged between 18-30, in endurance and strength training. For younger and older sportspeople, these times should be extended.
Recovery period after endurance training
Gentle endurance training Rough pulse range: 65-75% of maximum heart rate (HRmax) e.g. 1-2 hours jogging Recovery periods: untrained: 24 hours, trained: 12 hours
Intensive endurance training Rough pulse range: 75-85% HRmax e.g. 1 hour long tempo run, hill run Recovery periods: untrained: 48 hours, trained: 24 hours
High-intensity endurance training Rough pulse range: 85-100% HRmax e.g. 30 minutes sprint interval runs Recovery periods: untrained 72 hours, trained 36 hours
Recovery period after strength training Strength endurance training e.g. high numbers of reps not at repetition maximum (nRM) Recovery periods: untrained: 48 hours, trained: 24 hours
Maximum strength training or muscle building e.g. bench presses with a low number of reps up to repetition maximum (RM) Recovery periods: untrained: 3 days, trained: 36 hours
High-intensity or plyometric strength training e.g. HIT or explosive squat jumps Recovery periods: untrained: 4 days, trained: 3 days
What can you do during the recovery period?
Recovery periods always relate to the particular body structure which has been trained. It’s fine to train other structures during the rest times. Endurance training, with the exception of the high intensity varieties, can be undertaken during periods of recovery from strength training (and vice versa).
What you should do in the event of muscle ache?
If you have sore muscles, you categorically should not continue to train them! However, gentle endurance training which doesn’t overwork the painful body structures can help recovery. Running helps sore muscles in your upper body whilst swimming aids recovery of your leg muscles.
Can you shorten the recovery period?
A cool-down phase, e.g. a gentle run, can help your body remove the by-products of vigorous exercise such as lactic acid and other metabolites more quickly, and thus shorten the recovery period. This means a cool-down phase is essential, particularly after competitions and intensive workouts. This active recovery helps to restore the body’s balance (biological adaptation) and means you’re ready for your next training session sooner.
Cold baths immediately after intense exercise can reduce muscle inflammation and stimulate the circulation. They accelerate recovery considerably. The national football team, for example, uses this method after tournament matches.
Eating something quickly straight after exercise can also considerably shorten recovery. In top-level sport, for example, footballers are given a small snack of essential carbohydrates and high-quality protein in the dressing room.