Skip to main content

by David Merson, DPT, ATC

When it comes to exercise, sports, or any other physical activity, it is important to vary the intensity.  The variation of intensity can be summed up in one word – periodization.  The variation or creation of cycles of high intensity and low intensity will allow the body to rest, recover, and regenerate.  In turn, this will decrease the risk of “overuse” injuries.

In the world of professional sports (our models of physical activity), the athletes will have a competition of some sort, a day of rest and/or recovery, and then increase the level of activity that will taper off again prior to next day of competition.  This model can be applied to everyone who takes part in some physical activity. Looking at the bigger picture, the amount of activity varies from preseason, in-season, or post-season.  The every-day community based athlete or even physical therapy patient can apply this strategy to their activity or rehabilitation program.

I mentioned a key term – recovery session, you may be wondering what a recovery session would look like.  My recommended recovery session would include: light cardio exercise, dynamic/static stretching, foam rolling, and/or a pool workout (typical session for endurance and/or field based athletes).  You are still remaining active, but at the same time you will be performing activities that are considered to be therapeutic.  Please consult our blog on foam rolling as well.

You may be wondering why would you incorporate this kind of activity into your routine.  Heavy physical activity can create minor areas of trauma throughout the body.  Continuing activity without rest can make small changes in your body worse and/or could create actual injuries that would need to be addressed with more formal treatment.  Considering the fact that the human body is a great self-healer, recovery sessions will allow the body to work in the way it was meant to.

The bottom line…it is not always beneficial to perform your desired physical activity at 100% speed and intensity at all times.   Rest is helpful.  Incorporate highs and lows of intensity into your activity routine.   You will be better off in the long run – no pun intended!

Dr. Merson is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine