There’s nothing like the exhilaration you feel at the end of a kick-ass workout. There’s a physical rush plus a real sense of accomplishment — and, let’s face it, you look hot AF in the mirror right after you’ve gotten your pump on.

Those pleasurable feelings can be more than a little addictive.

But don’t let your craving for that fix derail your progress. No matter how good your pump feels, you shouldn’t work out every day. Taking time off from the gym is essential to achieving your fitness goals.

An overall rest and recovery program is essential for every athlete or fitness enthusiast who’s serious about making progress. All exercise, from aerobics to weight training, is about breaking down muscle fibers and challenging them to adapt and grow. After high-intensity activity, a muscle requires anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to repair and build.

Right now, if you’re feeling a little sore, lethargic, or burned out on your training, you may need to introduce an exercise, rest, and recovery program to your training cycle. Here are the eight most effective ways to speed recovery and facilitate gains after exercise.

  1. Stick with H20: Before training drink nothing stronger than a cup of java; lose those  pre-workout drinks with their excess sugar and exotic herbs. What should you drink during your workout? Water. It’ll keep you alert and energized, and after the gym it’ll help you replace fluids lost through perspiration.
  1. Go Mental: Don’t underestimate the power of the body-mind connection. Before every workout (or competition), take a little time to meditate, do some visualization, or give yourself a pep talk.
  1. Stretch It Out: Take time to stretch before an aerobic activity like running or swimming. When weight training, stretch between sets — then after your workout to promote recovery.
  1. Cycle Your Training: The best way to avoid over-training, burnout, and injury is to periodize or cycle your training. Work different muscle groups on different days. Split up your training days, and be sure to include rest days to facilitate growth and recovery. Regularly introduce new exercises to keep challenging your muscles.
  1. Chill, Dude: To help muscle fibers recover and grow after a heavy-duty session with weights, let them rest. That doesn’t mean you have to be a total couch potato on days off. Employ active rest: Ease up on heavy training and engage in less strenuous — and more pleasurable — activities such as walking, swimming, or yoga.
  1. Work at Recovery: Cool down after a workout with light stretching, deep breathing techniques, or even some very light cardio. To amp up muscle and joint recovery consider adding massage, sauna, or a little hot-tub time.
  1. Eat Heartily: You’ve got to eat to grow, so chow down within 60 minutes after working out. Eat complex carbs to replenish depleted energy stores. Quality proteins will foster muscle recovery and growth.
  1. Hit the Pillow: During sleep your body recovers. Damage caused by exertion and stress is healed. The pituitary gland pumps Human Growth Hormone (HGH) throughout the body to facilitate tissue growth and repair. Want big gains? Get your Zzzzzzzzzzz’s.
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Tom Bonanti is a personal trainer and licensed massage therapist (MA40288) with his own one on one training studio in Ft. Lauderdale www.pumpnincgym.com. Contact Tom with questions regarding fitness and nutrition trainertomb@aol.com or call to schedule a free fitness intake massage (954) 557-1119.