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3 Ways to Optimize Exercise Performance

Originally posted on  August 26, 2011

Erin is recovering well, in part because she is able to rest between her therapy sessions. Thanks for respecting her needs. She requires a lot of rest during her recovery. Actually, adequate rest and relaxation between periods of exercise is vital for recovery and performance for all of us.

Here’s why:
The more damage there is (like after you’ve been hit by a truck) the more sleep you need to repair the damage. If you exercise intensely, your muscles develop more micro-tears, and your rest period needs to be longer to get full benefit from the training you’ve done. No matter if it’s walking 100 feet with a walker, if the exercise feels intense, resting afterwards is vital. Yes, there are times when a nap on the couch is what your PT recommends☺.

Many factors affect exercise performance and your ability to recover.

GET MORE SLEEP: When you are asleep, particularly in slow wave sleep, growth hormone is released at high levels. That’s important because growth hormone is responsible for repairing the body from all the damage it experiences during the day.

When you are sleep deprived, your metabolism changes, with big fluctuations in blood sugar levels. When subjects in an exercise study were deprived of sleep, they took 40% longer to respond and regulate blood glucose levels after eating than when they had adequate sleep. If you BONK often, see your doctor for a glucose test, and if that’s okay, bonking may happen because your sleep tank is empty. Think about getting more zzzzzs.

REDUCE STRESS: People who feel highly stressed in general respond to exercise differently and need more recovery time. Long- term stress causes more ACTH to be produced by the pituitary gland, which in turn causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol. The testosterone: cortisol ratio is lowered as cortisol levels rise. This lower ratio impedes muscle building and over time leads to muscle wasting, high blood pressure, immune problems, and vitamin depletion.

Reducing stress by meditating, receiving BodyTalk, taking a relaxing walk through the woods, enjoying the company of friends or taking a warm bath – anything that makes your body say aahh – will help those cortisol levels drop and allow you to experience the full benefit of any exercise you do.

In general, when exercise is intense, cortisol levels rise, but when exercise is moderate, you actually reduce blood cortisol levels. That is one reason why a cool down (easy, active exercise after an intense work out) enhances recovery.

EAT WELL: Nutrition has a powerful effect on your ability to recover from exercise. Without adequate glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, your body starts to break down protein in the muscles. As proteins break down, cortisol levels rise to decrease inflammation. Paradoxically, those increased levels of cortisol tend to cause problems with metabolism of fats and a greater storage of fat in the abdomen.

So even if you are trying to lose weight, make sure you have adequate nutrition for any exercise you do.

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