“Listening to upbeat music during the recovery period immediately post exercise helps to lower the body’s lactic acid levels by comparison with a recovery period without music.”
Most people overlook the fact that rest and recovery are just as important to a successful training program as the intensity of the training we do.
In fact, rest and relaxation are not just the best way to avoid physical and mental burn out, but they actually make us stronger due to the way our body's muscles rebuild after training.
Most people overlook the fact that rest and recovery are just as important to a successful training program as the intensity of the training we do. In fact, rest and relaxation are not just the best way to avoid physical and mental burn out, but they actually make us stronger due to the way our body’s muscles rebuild after training.
Think about your body having two states. The Sympathetic nervous system powers your ‘go’ state, pumping your body with oxygen and hormones towards peak performance. By contrast your parasympathic nervous system works on your ‘stop’ state – counteracting the effects of exercise and returning your body to resting state.
You can cite the importance of both the engine and the brakes on a car, and you instantly get the idea of why recovery – that is firing the sympathetic system, is just as important as exercise.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH YOUR MUSCLES DURING EXERCISE?
Essentially, you have to break in order to rebuild. Your body extracts nutrients from foods (think fats and sugars) and burns them throughout the process of exercise.
The more you train, the more efficiently your body can metabolize these substances to produce energy, and the more effectively transform your muscle responses into power.
While training, your muscles are actually breaking down and tear on a microscopic level later to become more efficient. This is part of the magic behind our body’s adaptability.
WHY IS RECOVERY IMPORTANT?
In Recovery, your muscle tissue are repairing themselves and reconfiguring more tightly to support the training you’re doing. Continued movement and blood oxygenation are both huge factors in how fast and how completely your body can recover from exercise.
For this reason, it is often recommended that you conduct lightweight training during a recovery time, in a process called active recovery. Great exercises for active recovery include walking, gentle running, low impact cross training, and yoga.
In exercise science, we measure the effectiveness of your recovery through the speed at which your heart rate returns to its resting state, known as vagal tone. The higher the vagal tone, the more effective your recovery is at transitioning from ‘go’ to ‘stop’.
WHAT IS REST?
In between Exercise and Recovery is the vital stage of Rest. This is your training regime’s ‘sleep’ period, and actual sleep is a massive component of rest.
Your body continues to do almost as much work in bed as it did on the treadmill. While asleep, the body targets and restores muscle tissue along with any depleted energy stores, which is why getting at least eight hours will lead to good health and better results.
Many people find it difficult to get the full eight hours, but turning off the TV and plugging in wireless headphones for natural sounds or soft, ambient music can really do the trick. Avoid the stress from the screen of your laptop and gadgets as much as possible.
Always bear in mind that the quantity of your exercise should be parallel to the quality of your rest and recovery, and you need to find a balance of training that works for you – depending on your goals and current fitness level.
Of course, it isn’t just about moving your body – you should also consider how you are fuelling your body for optimal recovery.
Along with rest and relaxation, foods that are high in potassium are a wonder drug for getting the body back on track. Potassium, along with calcium and sodium, replenish the energy stores you burned through at the gym.
Bananas, vitamin supplements, and post-workout protein mixes are all great for giving the body exactly what it needs before and after a draining gym session.
HOW CAN MUSIC HELP RECOVERY?
The role of music in assisting the sympathetic nervous system to power your ‘go‘ state is pretty well researched. More recently, strong evidence is emerging to indicate that listening to music can also be tremendously beneficial in helping with recovery.
Research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research shows that listening to upbeat music during the recovery period immediately post exercise helps to lower the body’s lactic acid levels by comparison with a recovery period without music.
This has the effect of reducing soreness, speeding overall recovery and maximizing post-workout energy levels.
Additionally, studies have shown that listening to low-tempo music post-run increases your body’s vagal tone – that is, it helps your parasympathetic nervous system transition faster from ‘go’ to ‘stop’.
If you’re into team sport training, you may also consider listening to slow tempo or reflective music after your training session.
Studies have shown that this kind of music can help the brain process lessons from the session more effectively, leading to better decision making and improved team performance.
ACTION FOR YOU…
Instead of popping off your workout headphones when you finish – make sure you keep them on until your warm-down is complete!
If you haven’t already looked out a recovery music playlist, your can find a curated list by Brunel university’s Dr Costas Karageorghis here.
Recognizing the value of rest and recovery periods in health, we recently added these on-ear wireless headphones to our range of headphones for health.