Give it a rest

The key to a fit physique is knowing when to push yourself and when to call it quits.

Counterintuitively, most of the benefits we get from exercise don’t occur while we’re working out, but on our days off. The physical changes that we’re trying to attain from activity (be it leaner legs, a faster race time or a better golf game) actually take place on the days after the workout when the body is literally rebuilding itself from the inside out. Taking time out to recover is often the critical difference between achieving your fitness goals and hitting a plateau.

In the 24-48 hours immediately following a moderate to intense exercise session the body is busy removing metabolic wastes, replenishing energy stores, building muscle proteins and repairing tissue damage through a physiological process known as adaptation. Back-to-back high intensity workouts don’t give the body sufficient time to complete these processes and can reduce performance, cause sidelining injuries and prevent you from getting results. The good news is there are lots of things that you can do to help your body regenerate and even speed results. Here are my top 6 helpers:

Do Less: Don’t work out hard every day. Studies show that two high-intensity sessions per week are enough to achieve most fitness goals.

Keep Moving:Although the phrase “active rest” may sound like an oxymoron, researchers have found that doing a light workout the day after a challenging one can actually help speed the recovery process. Gentle activities such as Hatha yoga, walking or an easy swim can help bring blood to tissues and remove waste products, speeding the regeneration.

Take a Shower:
During your post-workout scrub-down, use hot water for 2 minutes, warm water for 1 minute, and ice-cold water for 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle 3-4 times. This process, know as Contrast Water Therapy, dilates and constricts blood vessels, which may help remove metabolic waste products and speed recovery.

Get Hands On:If you’re exercising on a regular basis massage isn’t a luxury — it’s essential. Hitting the table can improve the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, help remove waste, and reduce pain. It can also break up excessively tight areas in muscle tissue, known as “trigger points,” caused by muscle tension and scar tissue.

Hit the Sack: Sleep is ultimate regeneration tool, unfortunately most of us aren’t getting enough. Experts believe we need at least eight hours and the average American is getting only six and a half to seven. Try to be mindful of how much you’re getting and set a regular sleep schedule.

Drink Up:Dehydration impairs metabolism and prevents adequate nutrient transfer, which is the process of bringing food and oxygen into the cell and removing waste products like lactic acid. Replenish fluids lost during exercise immediately afterwards: weigh yourself right before and right after a workout. Any weight lost during the session is water weight (not fat) that needs to be replaced. Down a few glasses until you're back to your pre-workout weight.