Recovery is the Key to Exercise Enjoyment and Performance

Thu, 6 June 2013 - 1:56 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

Recovery is the Key to Exercise Enjoyment and Performance


By Walter Urban  


After 15 years of international powerlifting competitions with training three to four days a week, two to three hours a day, 50 weeks of the year, I am convinced recovery is the key to enjoyment, performance, and exercise longevity. Whether you are just starting to exercise or a seasoned veteran of any physical activity such as running, weightlifting, biking, or swimming, muscle and overall body recovery is very important and as you get older recovery is paramount.


Recovery includes, sleep, rest, eating, hydration and may also include the use of ice, heat, therapeutic massage, and/or active release.


In general, research shows that recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. This is even more critical after a heavy weight training session. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building. For weight training routines, never work the same muscles groups two days in a row.


The following are a few of my personal suggestions on recovery—at any age—after training or working out:

  1. Cool down—don’t just stop abruptly
  2. Stretch after cool down—even for just a few minutes
  3. Replace fluids with water, sports drink, protein drinks, or milk (avoid alcohol) 
  4. Eat within 30 to 60 minutes after you exercise, ensuring both protein and complex carbohydrate intake to replace much needed nutrients. Eating within 30 to 60 minutes speeds recovery by up to 50%
  5. Rest the specific muscle group 24 to 48 hours 
  6. Make ice your best friend—it reduces minor muscle pain and helps get blood in those muscles
  7. Use heat when necessary 
  8. Avoid over training—there are no medals for over training only injury and rehab 
  9. Use massage 
  10. Use active release massage, an extreme version of deep tissue or sports massage. Active release targets specific muscle problems, identifies the reason for pain and works that specific area. It’s intense and can be painful, but works wonders.


  1. If pain persists, back off and visit your doctor—working through the wrong kind of pain can result in serious injury and long rehabs
  2. Be smart and listen to your body—it’s the only one you have 



A word of caution about using heat: Two weeks prior to setting my 2011 Guinness World Record I pinched a nerve between two ribs. The pain was so intense I couldn’t sleep in any position and ice does not work well on nerve-related injuries. I resorted to an electric heating pad.  It worked wonders reducing the pain and allowed me to fall asleep.  Unfortunately, the pain related to the pinched nerve was greater than the pain I was inadvertently undergoing as I fell asleep lying on a heating pad—for a total of eight hours. In the morning, the nerve pain was replaced with pain from a two-by-three-inch second degree burn on my back, resulting in a permanent scar. So I repeat, be careful when using heat.


In closing, remember it’s your exercise regimen. You decide when, where, and how long. You also decide how to recover. It’s one thing to work through minor exercise fatigue; it’s another thing to avoid injury. 


Remember, it is called a workout— it may hurt from time to time. But take time to recover properly and you’ll be enjoying improvements to your fitness level until you’re 90!



Walter Urban is a World Championship powerlifter currently residing in Canada. For more information, please visit


(RUNNING & FITNEWS® March / April 2012 • Volume 30, Number 2)




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