Photo by ddimitrova/pixabay

Take 2 Nights' Sleep And Call Me In The Morning

Driving home the importance of rest in healing and recovering

By Dan Wheeler, DPT

Okay, so it has been about a month since my last attempt at starting my next workout routine. I need to find a way to get back into the groove of good health. A quick glance through the latest fitness blogs and it appears the key to my quick turnaround is right there as shiny and bright as a fast food menu… do 100 push-ups a day for a month. Hmm, and lets add the 2 minute wall sit, and a 60 second plank on the side.
First day is no problem. Quite difficult banging out the full 100 push-ups in a sitting so I break it up into sets, but the plank and 2-minute wall sit were a cakewalk. Like somewhat stale grandma cake. Day 2, plank is once again not a problem, the wall sit is okay I guess, and the push-ups are kind of hurting a little at my outer most edge of the chest and shoulders. Day 3, plank still not an issue but a tiny twinge of pain at the top of my ass and lower back. The wall sit is getting old and I’m running out of ways to pass the 2 minutes without monotonously watching the seconds tick, and my chest, again at the edges are really getting sore. Day 4, pretty much the same as day 3, and not really feeling awesome. Day 5 and well to be honest this really kind of sucks. I am getting sick of being in pain, the exercises are not getting any easier, and my before and after pictures are not living up to the advertised billing. I have how many more days to go?!
This sound familiar? There are plenty of people that can grind out the routine, and more power to them I guess. However, a series of critical components for health and recovery seem to be forgotten in this process. A serious fitness professional would never recommend something like the above routine. There is no diversity. Where is the antagonistic work for opposite muscle groups? Where is the learning curve for core muscle activation to prevent low back pain and to square down solid technique? Most importantly, where is the appropriate rest interval taken into the equation?
I am big fan of rest and sleep. Prior to my kids, I used to love getting my uninterrupted 8–9 hours. Sleep is for the rebuild. It is the body’s time to focus on recovery, both in the mind and rest of the physical structure. Evidence has shown that REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is for the mind, allowing mental recovery and processing. The brain is still working pretty hard during this phase and most dreams occur here as well. It is where we reinforce our memories. Non REM sleep is where the mind shuts down. There is no real voluntary muscle activation so the resource flow to the muscles, bones, and tendons is strictly for recovery. This is where your body engages in protein synthesis and increased production of growth hormone.
As Seinfeld would say, “so what’s the deal with growth hormone”. Surprisingly growth hormone or GH is not just for major league baseball players in the 90’s trying to increase their shirt size from XL to double X. Actually GH, at least directly, doesn’t really do much to the size of your muscles, although it is part of a signaling cascade that might eventually get you there. What GH does do however, is help in recovery. Collagen fibers love GH; it stimulates their synthesis and helps them heal. Think muscle tissue, tendons, and bones, which are all made up of collagen fibers. You bathe them in GH and you create a very effective environment for injury healing or simple post work out recovery. So better sleep=more efficient release of GH=better healing.
Now let’s shift gears to injury. Let’s say hypothetically speaking, you were riding your kid’s new, rated for those 100 pounds and under Walmart special motorized bike. Also, let’s say you hypothetically tried pushing the speed limit of said motorized bike and dumped it. You are left with a bruised shin, banged up elbow, and slightly dented pride. You are hurting. Swelling starts immediately as injured mast cells promote a histamine release pumping away the inflammatory process. At this point, barring any significant internal bleeding you can most likely avoid the Emergency room visit. You could go though, sit for 4 hours, get X-rays-which would most likely be negative- and get charged 900 dollars for a thin swipe of antibiotic ointment, a Bandaid and 30 minutes under a 35 cent ice pack. Or, you could rest it off.
Inflammation is not a terrible thing. Just like many things in our body it is an alarm to activate something. Inflammation can get out of hand and for that we have our good friend Ibuprofen, but for the most part it can be controlled through ice and rest. Your body notices that an injury has occurred. Cells have been damaged or killed and this releases material that start a process that brings in cells to get rid of the damaged material and recruits cells to rebuild. Most of the time the acute inflammatory response winds down after 24–48 hours. It is during this time that your body just needs to rest the area, let the tissues heal and not rock the boat too much. Any further insult such as repeating the injury on the bike or pumping away at the same repetitive exercise day in and out will maintain your body’s state in acute inflammation. You will not allow the tissues to assemble and restore the process of repair and more importantly maturation. Rest is the time needed for your body to basically say, what the hell just happened first off, and secondly what the hell can I do to prepare myself in case this happens again. Your body needs the rest to learn.
This really isn’t a new concept. Most work out routines in old dusty fitness books promote the importance of rest with recovery. Depending on your goal rest times can be a critical factor in your game plan. If your goal is for muscle growth or hypertrophy and strength then you will need a longer time in between exercise bouts for a full rebuild and adaptation. That way you will completely restore the tissue to glory and then some before introducing a more aggressive insult again. If your goal is more for endurance and conditioning then your body needs to learn how to recover quickly. It will prepare by promoting a more favorable blood and oxygen supply to the area so a rest period does not need to be so long in between bouts.
So let’s be honest, when you are thinking about starting a workout routine or recovering from injury you might want to take a little more time and get your ducks… or maybe your counted sheep all in a row. Along with your high quality protein shakes, your killa cut off sleeve new threads, and your expertly picked playlist on Alexa, you might want to invest a few dollars into a new pillow. Don’t neglect one of the easiest and most important components of recovery.
By Dan Wheeler, DPT

Dan joined the staff in the fall of 2013 after graduating from the University of Vermont with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. He is originally from Lyndonville and a former Lyndon Institute graduate where he played football and competed in track and field. As an undergraduate at UVM Dan was a 2-time Captain of the Varsity track and field program. Now as a physical therapist, Dan tries to treat the body in a holistic approach by looking through the entire kinetic chain and not just the joint or area with dysfunction. He enjoys treating patients on all ends of the spectrum from the high school athlete, to the elderly individual with arthritis and allowing each person to achieve their functional goals.

His interests outside of the clinic include hiking, snowshoeing, rock climbing and he is an avid hunter and fisherman. Dan lives in Lyndon with his wife, Angela, and their two children.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *