Regeneration comprises all the planned activities and nutrition strategies to help your body physically and psychologically overcome the stress of training. It’s essential to recovering quickly and efficiently from exercise.
Importance of Regeneration
Recovery is the limiting factor to performance. Consider the demands of everyday life, plus intense training. The cumulative stress to your muscle tissue and nervous system require a recovery plan integrated into your overall daily and yearly game plan. This should include sleep cycle strategies, pre- and post-workout nutrition, as well as dedicated recovery days, weeks and cycles. Otherwise, your risk for overtraining or burnout shoots up.
Two Types of Recovery
There’s a big difference between rest—doing nothing at all—and “active rest.” A combination of both "active" and "passive" recovery will maximize your results from training, while reducing your injury potential.
In "active rest," you take a break from serious training but still do things that benefit your body, such as playing golf, tennis, or basketball, or doing some lightly flexibility work. You’re not training per se, but you’re still getting the benefit of physical activity. Not only that, you’re having fun.
Passive recovery includes things like getting a massage and sitting in a hot tub or cold plunge. Both elements of recovery are not only important, but necessary and equally important as working out. If you don’t give your body time to recover, it’s never going to improve.
The regeneration portion in Core Performance training programs is a series of exercises, but regeneration is also a lifestyle philosophy, a recognition that you need to plan ways to recover—mentally and physically—and in all areas of your life. Regeneration days are low stress, often 2 or 3 times a week, to help you recover from the rigors of your other training days. You can do your regeneration work at home, much of it while watching television, if you want.
People tend to measure how effectively they’ve worked out by how sore they are the following days. But what good is a workout that leaves you so sore that you can’t work out for the next 4 days? Some people talk about how they train “all out” or “give 110 percent” every time they swipe their card at the gym.
But let’s face it: First, they’re lying; no one can work out like that without breaking down. They might do 110 percent of what the guy on the next bench is capable of doing, but they can’t push themselves to their own limits without their bodies breaking down. Second, if they really try to exert that kind of effort every time they work out, they aren’t training efficiently. Your body actually improves and adapts to stress on regeneration days, when you’re recovering from the high-intensity days.
The better and more rapidly you recover, the more quickly your body adapts, and the sooner you can do another high-intensity activity. That means better gains and faster improvements. Regeneration, in other words, could be the difference between reaching and not reaching your goals.
Here’s why: If you just sit at your desk all day your body’s systems are stagnant, like a pool of water. But if you’re doing light exercise on those regeneration days, you’re increasing circulation. That pumping blood drives nutrients into your muscles, accelerating the recovery process. You can do all this without high-impact activities. All you need to do is move enough to increase circulation, and purposely enough to activate the nervous system and elongate muscles. There’s no need to stress muscles and joints; all they need is for you to flip the “on” switch.
Regeneration also is vital from a mental standpoint. If I have you train hard 6 days a week and challenge your endurance and confidence every day, you’re going to burn out. Even pro athletes would drop out. But if you can relax a bit, you’ll not only look forward to those easy days but also be inspired to work harder on your more difficult training days.
- Verstegen, Mark, and Pete Williams. Core Performance: the revolutionary workout program to transform your body and your life. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 2004.