Recovery is something that is very rarely discussed, but I would venture to say that it is one of the big reasons that progress is not made in fitness programs. Recovery is the time between training that allows the muscles and central nervous system time to recuperate from being used in strength or speed training. I can remember being in high school lifting day after day and wondering why I was not getting stronger. High Intensity running and strength training cause stress to the muscles and minor tears, which need time and active recovery methods in order to heal. The healing process creates an adaptation by the muscles, which in turn enlarges muscle to compensate for the stress that was put on the muscle.
There are two types of ways to fatigue the body, which are metabolically and neurologically. Metabolic fatigue is usually much more evident by the DOMS ( Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) , which we usually feel after a heavy bout of training. Central Nervous Fatigue is often the hardest to determine, but can be made visible by the way we feel, and the effort that we are able to put forth into training. The take home message is listen to your body and rest when you feel you don't have much to give.
There are several modes of recovery that I think are beneficial:
1) Vary your external resistance and stress from High to Low CNS stressors
2) Do not lift or run every day
3) Drink a post-recovery shake with adequate amount of BCAA's, protein, and carbs
4) Massage and contrast showers
5) Stretch all tight muscles ( Trapezius, psoas, hip flexors, etc...)
6) Rest ( 8-9 hours sleep)
7) Light additional workouts to increase nutrient rich blood flow to eliminate waste in blood and lactic acid.
If you are not improving, make sure that have some recovery methods or I will be telling you I told you so. And you put yourself at greater risk of injury.