Pilates equipment

Prioritizing Recovery with Pilates

Whether you work out intensely several times a week or follow a consistent, low-impact exercise regimen, recovery and sleep should be a priority and part of your overall health plan. Especially if you’re training for a competition, while it may sound counterintuitive, a recovery day can give you an edge.

Because working out on a Pilates reformer offers a unique form of low-impact exercise that works your entire body, your Pilates equipment gives you a perfect choice for both active and passive recovery days. Because recovery means different things to different people, depending on your level and type of exercise, this post uncovers the details on how to treat your recovery days and how to know when they’re needed.

Pilates equipment

How to Treat a Recovery Day

Think about how you treat your body immediately after working out. Most people typically don’t complete a workout and then dive right into another intense round of exercise. Regardless of what type of workout you do, you likely hydrate, eat, and rest, at the very least. Even if you’re doing two workouts a day, you take some time off between rounds.

Some people may even get in a workout and still take a hike, go for a run, take a walk, and do something active to keep their muscles warm and loose for the next day’s workout. These same concepts apply to recovery days. Instead of short-term rest of a few hours or a light round of cardio to keep muscles warm, recovery gives you a longer time to rest and allows your body to recover and repair.

Although your recovery needs are very individualized, every individual needs recovery days. To understand what type of recovery you need to incorporate into your workouts, you first need to understand the two basic types. Consider the differences between active and passive recovery:

  • Active recovery: In this type of recovery, instead of taking off an entire day from working out, you engage in low-impact exercise that keeps your muscles warm and active. You recover from high-intensity workouts, but you allow yourself some movement, just not the same high-impact as usual. Your Pilates reformer makes a perfect fit for active recovery days.
  • Passive recovery: As the name indicates, passive recovery involves taking the entire day off from all forms of exercise. Many people use this day for self-care needs like a massage or to just get extra things done on their to-do list. Taking the day off offers a guilt-free opportunity to relax from the stress that working out puts on your body.

When deciding what type of recovery to use, consider your type of workout and intensity level. If you’re training for a competition, active recovery makes a great choice, and if you’re feeling mentally burnt out or completely exhausted, give yourself a passive recovery day.

If you’re someone who needs to move, even on your day off, rest assured that your Pilates reformer can do the trick. The total body workout you get on your reformer offers the movements in strength and stability through a full range of motion that your muscles need to stay loose and prepped for your next workout. Even if you’re doing Pilates consistently, you can still use your Pilates equipment on a recovery day because the low-impact exercise you get from Pilates still helps your body recover even while you’re enduring a challenging Pilates workout.

However, you can push your body too much. Even the most competitive of athletes ensure they give their body the rest it needs, especially when your body sends you signals that you’re pushing your limits. Signs you need a recovery day include:

  • You constantly feel sore. When your body builds muscle, you have to actually create micro-tears in your muscle through exercise, such as strength training, which also builds up lactic acid. When your body goes through this muscle damage, it sends good nutrition and blood to that area to heal and repair your muscle, which creates stronger muscles. The damage and lactic acid that builds up cause the muscle soreness you feel after working out. Your body then repairs or rebuilds that muscle when you rest or recover, which is why you need to adapt to a regular recovery schedule. Otherwise, your muscles will continually be sore. This soreness is an indication that your body isn’t getting the time and or rest it needs to repair those damaged muscle fibers. Instead of creating stronger muscles, you’re leaving them in disrepair. If you’re constantly sore, take some type of recovery day to give yourself time to heal.
  • You’re tired and possibly irritable. Exercise helps to balance and regulate your mood and releases those good-feeling endorphins. So if you’re feeling tired consistently and irritable, you may not be allowing yourself enough downtime to recover. Your muscles aren’t the only part of you that needs to recover. Your mind in addition to your body needs recovery. So include active or passive recovery into your exercise schedule to ensure you get the rest you need so your body can make its needed repairs.
  • You get injured. While an injury itself isn’t necessarily a sign that you need to include recovery days, if you’re seeing other signs, such as soreness and lethargy, and then you get injured, consider incorporating more recovery into your workout because you could be overtraining. If you have Pilates equipment at home, such as a Pilates reformer, you can still use it while you’re recovering from an injury. While you may need to modify some moves, you can stay on top of your fitness while allowing your injury to resolve.
  • Your quality of sleep is poor. You may think that extensive working out leads to better sleep, but you need sleep to properly recover from regular exercise. If you’re getting the right amount of exercise, you’ll sleep better. If you’re overtraining and in need of a recovery day, you’ll notice your sleep quality lowering. If you notice this, add in some type of regular recovery so that you can get the right amount of sleep and the right quality of sleep for your body to make the repairs it needs.
  • Your resting heart rate is elevated. If you work out regularly, take your heart rate each morning once you wake up. After a week, you can average the numbers to get a good idea of where your resting heart rate should be. When you’re not working out, regularly check your heart rate and see if it’s unusually elevated. If so, this is a sign that your body is working overtime to catch up with the intensity of your workouts. Including recovery days at regular intervals can better regulate your resting heart rate.

Pilates equipment

How Recovery Days Make You Healthier and Stronger

It sounds counterintuitive to work less to get stronger, but recovery can do just that. Working out at high levels of intensity too often works against your goals. Taking recovery days helps your body adapt to the stress you put on it. In fact, you can expect the following benefits when you incorporate recovery days into your workout:

  • Your muscles get the repair they need. Working out puts micro-tears into your muscle fibers. While this is a natural part of the strength-building process, you need to give time for those damaged fibers to be repaired. Continually performing intense exercise doesn’t give your body time to repair your fibers and strengthen your muscles. You need downtime to get stronger. Downtime doesn’t mean not moving. Choosing active recovery with your Pilates equipment can give you the downtime you need.
  • You get the mental break you need. Working out with Pilates equipment is challenging. Any workout you perform that challenges you physically also offers a mental challenge. Those times you push yourself, you’re challenging your brain while feeling fatigued. You challenge your body while it undergoes stress. Having a recovery day, even active recovery, gives you some freedom from the mental stress that working out can place on you.
  • Your body gets much-needed recharging. To perform its needed repairs to your muscle fibers and body, your body needs energy. From your circulatory system sending blood to the areas in which it’s needed to your nervous system keeping all systems in check, your body expends energy for these unseen tasks. Giving yourself recovery time and plenty of sleep allows your body to efficiently perform the repairs needed so you can build a healthier, stronger you.

When you give yourself the necessary time for recovery, not only are you enhancing your overall health and wellness, but you’re also giving yourself a break from the rigors and challenges—both mental and physical—of working out. This break gives you time with friends and family, time to pursue other hobbies, and time to simply knock off other items on your task list. Simply put, recovery is the simplest task you can incorporate immediately to better achieve balance in your fitness.

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