Training through the pain isn’t always good

Man in gray shirt inside a gym

As much as you’d like to spend every day training at the gym, you’re just not built that way. But die trying you do, don’t you? Some have, literally.

The fact is overtraining, or simply ignoring all signs of muscle fatigue and soreness, might get you into serious trouble. Muscle recovery and rest are essential factors that any real athlete in training or even your resident gym instructor should incorporate in every training, and here’s the biggest reason why:


At one time or another, most of us have felt the “burn” during long periods of training and workouts. No pain, no gain, they said.  And that’s normal – intense training will cause soreness and pain, which normally goes away after a few days.

Now, imagine a kind of “burn” that is far worse than the usual post-workout discomforts. One that triggers nausea and instantaneously weakens your whole muscular system. That is Rhabdomyolysis or Rhabdo, as it’s commonly known in the sports industry.

According to a WebMD article about Rhabdomyolysis, it is a syndrome involving the death of muscle fibers and the release of their contents into the bloodstream, which often leads to serious complications if left untreated and ignored.

Illustration of a human muscular system
Image Source: CrossFit Streets

Initially associated with traumatic injury, recent medical records show Rhabdo to be five times more frequent among people engaged in strenuous exercises, e.g. weightlifting, running, and crossfit.

Rhabdomyolysis exhibits a triad of symptoms that include:

  • muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs, or lower back,
  • muscle weakness in the arms and legs and,
  • dark red or brown urine color.

All these may come with or follow the onset of other common signs and symptoms which include abdominal pain, nausea, rapid heart rate, confusion, dehydration, and lack of consciousness.

Unlike delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, rhabdo is a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention or you might risk developing hyperkalemia (too much potassium in the blood), necessitating a kidney transplant. Overexertion, poor conditioning and even the use of dietary supplements were also cited as factors that contribute to rhabdo and lead to electrical abnormalities in the heart and even death.

Rest and Recovery: Is there a difference?

Woman standing between two punching bags

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts understand that discipline and sacrifice is required to improve performance . Needless to say, this mindset comes with the risk of overexertion. Sometimes we push our bodies to the limit to achieve more than what is expected. And while this isn’t a bad thing and in fact, necessary for athletes, the body can only handle so much stress.

So, let us fully understand the definition of rest and recovery. You might have subscribed to the popular notion that rest and recovery are the same, and both may be simply defined as time spent away from the gym or the usual workout. Big mistake.

Deconstructing the principles of rest and recovery and learning about the elements we can apply to our own fitness program is the key to achieving greatness in the sport industry.

Knowing is half the battle.

There are people who are passionate and very committed to their physical fitness program which often means that they tend to exercise six days out of seven. Many have adopted the “no pain, no gain” mantra and live by it, that the principles of rest and recovery are left outside the gym.

On the contrary, rest and recovery will not throw you off from your program and both are important, albeit slightly different. For purposes of, and in the context of physical fitness, let us define both.

Rest is the time spent away from training and exercising. This is when you allow yourself to lay in your bed and sleep. It is during this appointed rest period that your body and mind recovers from the stress of intense workout sessions or competitions.

Recovery, or active recovery, is a technique that helps relieve muscle soreness, improve flexibility, and restore energy levels through low key workouts (light cardio, jogging, swimming or meditative yoga). The increased blood flow removes lactic acid build up and prevents any development of venous pooling in the blood.

The Principles of Rest and Recovery

Here are some great points to take to heart on your journey in finding true wellness as guided by these easy to follow principles of rest and recovery. Read on.

Structured Rest

Woman getting a massage

Incorporate complete rest days in your training. So, for every six days of intense workout sessions, make sure that you have one day where you’d just put your feet up and allow your aching muscles to heal themselves.

Or, if you aren’t feeling THAT sore go for a morning walk or bike ride. Do some light resistance exercises to keep blood flow going. Remember though to keep these activities light and don’t exceed 20 minutes per session. You can also get a massage to ease muscle soreness and pain.

Proper Nutrition

Man holding a white ceramic bowl


Eating enough calories will ensure that your body has all the macronutrients it needs to recover properly.

Proper nutrition during this period should facilitate healthy amounts of enough protein and carbs in your diet. In progression, eating the right amount of food within the right period will help your body in the right way. Consult with a nutritionist or your trainer and come up with a meal plan that’d boost recovery


Photo of a person sleeping

Gaining adequate hours of sleep is another essential principle that will work wonders for your recovery. Sleep gives the body a break and also causes the release of hormones that normalize breathing, which then relaxes muscles in the body. This process can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.

Make sure that you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Also, remember that the quality of sleep is as important as quantity. So ensure you get restful sleep every time. Keep distractions like mobile phones and laptops away from your bed. Get into a “bedtime” habit as this prepares your mind and body for rest.


Woman meditating

Achieve recovery through the power of your mind. Benefit from this ancient practice of meditation, self-preservation and harness your healing potential by speaking to your inner mind to actively rejuvenate every single cell inside your physical body.

People struggling with chronic pain or other medical conditions use healing meditation to feel better in body and spirit. For most of us, the simple appreciation of stress reduction and perhaps self-healing that comes from sitting quietly and focusing the mind is more than enough.

No Alcohol

Photo of alcoholic drinks

Three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco, alcohol does not only leave you with a hangover but it also wreaks havoc on your body as it dehydrates you and overtime, ply your system with toxins. In turn, your body responds to heal these alcohol-damaged cells. And as it directs much of its attention to it, those sore muscles that you dearly want to heal are left to degenerate instead.

Ice Baths

Men sitting in tubs of ice water

Ice baths have been used since ancient times. Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations have recorded the medicinal uses of hydrotherapy, which include bathing in freezing temperatures to cure and heal a number of symptoms and conditions.

Ice baths have increasingly become more than just an old-world wonder. In truth, water immersion at temperatures up to 23 degrees below zero is believed to improve motor function. The idea is that the freezing cold water speeds up recovery by reducing the temperature, blood flow and inflammation in muscle tissue.

Be warned though, ice baths are far from pleasant. But as you get the hang of it, the relief you will feel on all those sore muscles will be worth the initial shock.


Photo of Hydragun sports recovery tool

Whenever you feel rubbed the wrong way by your workout, leaving you sore and sorry for days on end, submit yourself to the recovery powers of the sixth principle of rest and recovery.

The benefits of a good massage are felt immediately through an induced feeling of deep relaxation and calm. This occurs because massages often prompt the release of endorphins – the all-natural brain chemical or more popularly known as the “happy hormones”.

As for the physical benefits, post training/workout massages ease DOMS by improving blood flow to problem areas, thus reducing swelling and promoting faster recovery. Many athletes use a muscle recovery tool like Hydragun to ease soreness and pain wherever they go.

Commonly known as a massage gun, these devices use percussive force to drive vibrations deep into the muscles and ease lactic acid build up. It also helps strengthen muscles with regular use.

Gunning for Greatness

Man running on highway

On the journey to athletic greatness, it’s so easy to not just complicate and overthink things, but overdo things, too. Even athletes – often driven by their work ethic – sometimes forget that in order to be a better performer, they also need enough time to rest. After all, muscle recovery in athletes is necessary. How else could they continue with their training?

Understanding the importance of recovery, as well as learning the different ways you can incorporate it in your training are the first steps to achieving that perfect balance of staying fit and giving your body the rest it needs.

Recovery is an important component of living a high-performance lifestyle. And while we’ve researched  and written quite a lot on muscle recovery, we’d still love to hear about your take on it. If you love our post this week, please share it with someone you’d think would agree. Got recovery techniques to share? Sound off in the comments below or chat with us on our social media accounts.

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