Rest and recuperation occurs when the heart beats at less than 50% of its maximum. This is the time when muscle glycogen is replaced, aerobic enzymes are built, and muscle growth takes place. It does no good to design the perfect weight lifting, wind sprinting, or aerobic exercise program if recuperation is not included. You can exercise all you want, but if you donít give your muscles rest, your fitness wonít improve.

Fit people have resting heart rates as low as 25% of maximum (40-50 beats per minute) which gives them a very wide zone in which to recuperate. The resting heart rate of fat, out-of-shape people is often as high as 45% of maximum (75-90 beats per minute) so that their recuperation zone is very narrow.

Very fit people have two advantages when they rest. First, their wide recuperation zone enables them to handle physical or emotion stress better. When a fit person gets the flu, for example, his heart rate may increase up to 35% of maximum but he is still in his recuperation zone. When an unfit person gets the flu his heart rate pushes him out of the recuperation zone so that tissue repair is jeopardized.

Second, very fit people can be active and still be in their recuperation zone. When fit teenage Johnny gets a cold, his mom wants him to rest. For her, rest means inactivity. For Johnny, playing Frisbee or shooting hoops in the driveway may be rest. It takes a lot of running around to drive him about 50% maximum heart rate. Fit people rest and recuperate while having fun doing active things.

Donít overlook the significance of this Ė it may be the most important thing youíll ever learn about fitness. Fat, out-of-shape people often complain of how hard it is to get fit again. They try to exercise religiously, but something always seems to go wrong causing repeated setbacks. Their recuperation zone is so narrow that itís hard to stay within it. They have to start slow and gentle and build slowly.

Even if they exercise perfectly, monitoring their breathing and heart rate, the slightest cold, muscle strain, or stress drives them above that narrow zone, thus decreasing the time spent in recuperation. Fit people, on the other hand, appear not to need rest. When theyíre doing gentle activity theyíre still in their recuperation zone, repairing tissue, replenishing glycogen and building muscle.

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