Why Recovery is as Important as Working Out + How to Do It


How many of you guys feel like you're working really hard in the gym, but your progress is stalling? It can be extremely frustrating to put in the work and not reap the rewards you're supposed to be getting. What if you’re forgetting about the one really important thing here that could kickstart your progress again?


Recovery is one of the most under-utilized and neglected parts of everyone's fitness regime and overall health. I describe this to my clients with this metaphor: Working out intensely in the gym but not doing any recovery work is like meticulously making awesome plans for a vacation (plane tickets, excursions, accommodations, etc), and then... not boarding the plane.

You had it all set up, yet you didn't take that last crucial step to make it all count!

Nerd science time: you basically are making micro-tears in your muscles when you work out and fatiguing your systems. Your "gains" (strength and muscle gain, which are the formula for fat loss) don't actually occur when you work out... yes, for real. Did I just drop a knowledge bomb on you?

I repeat: Your progress and gains do not actually occur during your workout.

So when does it happen? You guessed it. Through proper recovery!

There are 3 major pillars of recovery: Sleep, Nutrition, and Nervous System Recovery.

Recovery is how you reap in the rewards from your hard work, and I want to help you guys to get as much as you can out of what you work for.

So how do we do this recovery stuff right? Let's break this down by category:

1. Sleep

I've waxed on about the importance of sleep to your fitness progress in more detail, but essentially sleep is your body's ultimate, uninterrupted time to purely recover.

Your body releases growth hormones that are essential to muscle recovery and gain while you are sleeping. Sleep is also crucial to the regulation of your blood sugar- this is important because that's also what helps determine your body's usage of glucose (carbs/sugars) versus stored fat for energy. And lastly, with less sleep, you obviously will be more tired and less likely to be able to push hard during your workouts, resulting in a lackluster effort for your time.

So what should you do?

A) Consistently get a solid 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. Here are some tips.
B) Take efficient naps whenever possible.

What I personally do:

I really prioritize getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
When I find myself straying away from that practice, I realize there's nothing that makes me feel better or more recovered than proper sleep.

2. Nutrition

Better nutrition = better quality of muscle tissue that you build during recovery, and a healthier-functioning body. It's rather straightforward. 

Think about it this way: what you ingest in your body, that is what material you are giving your body to use to build new muscle and give you energy stores. I mean, I wish I could be fueled by croissants and cheese, but unfortunately those don't tend to be as effective as leafy greens and lean protein!

After a workout, your glycogen (energy) stores are tapped out, and your body is hungry for protein to rebuild the muscle tissue you just broke down. A very general rule of thumb is a 2:1 carb:protein ratio for a post-workout meal or snack, to help kickstart the recovery process

So what should you do?

A) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
B) Get your veggies and greens on. Once a day doesn't really cut it for serious fitness goals.
C) Incorporate protein. Your body needs these building blocks to get stronger and leaner.
D) Watch the alcohol. Alcohol severely impacts your body's recovery process. Not only does it slow down your "gains," but it also encourages your body to not metabolize nutrients and sugars the way you want them to for optimal strength and fat loss.

What I personally do:

I don't like complicated. My go-to post-workout smoothie is my power green smoothie. Greens, nutrients, protein, hydration, it's literally got everything that you need for that recovery jumpstart.

3. Nervous System Recovery

Your nervous system has two main parts: sympathetic and parasympathetic.

Sympathetic nervous system is responsible for that "fight or flight" part of us and is activated by stress. Parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the "rest and digest" part of us.
AKA Recovery! So we want to turn on that parasympathetic part of us as much as possible to balance out our chronically over-stressed society and to help us reap in the rewards from our workouts.

You can do both mental and physical things to induce recovery here. So what should you do?

A) Learn how to manage your stress.
B) Meditation. Yes yes, I know, I once felt that way too.
C) Getting out in nature. Exposure to nature and being away from screentime are proven to reduce stress levels, improve mental clarity, and increase motivation.
D) Active recovery. Yes, you can still workout if you want! Choose a more relaxing activity that connects to breathing like yoga, swimming, or stretching.
E) Take a bath. Or any relaxing activity that forces you to unplug and close your eyes.
F) Massage or any soft-tissue (fascial) therapy like foam rolling and trigger point. 

What I personally do:

I do all of the above.
Personally, the ones with the biggest immediate impact for me are getting out in nature, a bath, and a massage. I've always said that if I hit the lottery, the one thing I'd treat myself to is a weekly masseuse because it's honestly one of the best things you can do for physical recovery.

People seem to view it as an indulgence, which I suppose is true, but think about athletes- they are always getting worked on by physical therapists and masseuses to expedite their recovery process so they can train harder.

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The Importance of Recovery for Fitness + How to Do It | Living Minnaly