Rest and recovery are critical components of any successful training program. They are also the least planned and underutilized ways to enhance performance. You may not be aware there is a difference between rest and recovery or how to properly implement them both.
Most easily defined as a combination of sleep and time spent not training, rest is the easiest to understand and implement. How you sleep and spend this time is very critical.
Recovery, however, refers to techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. These include hydration, nutrition, posture, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, and time spent standing versus sitting versus lying down. Recovery is multifaceted and encompasses more than just muscle repair. Recovery involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state, and more.
We have different systems that need to recover. These include hormonal, neurological, and structural. Our structural system includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Muscles recover the quickest because they receive direct blood flow. Tendons, ligaments, and bones receive indirect blood flow and therefore can take longer to recover and be more susceptible to overtraining stress.
For most, the goal should not be set for perfection or include exactly correct levels of each factor – leave that for professional athletes to strive after. Our goal is to prioritize life and maximize performance without personal sacrifice. Kick back, relax, and enjoy an evening out with friends. Find your ways to unwind, healthy ways but don’t over sacrifice for sake of performance. That will get lonely and tiresome quickly.
The goal of this article is to show you seven (7) important subcomponents of rest and recovery to provide you with better insight on how to improve performance and overall quality of life. A healthy and happy athlete not only performs better, but has the ability to give time and energy to others also.
Sleep is the most important time to recover. Adequate levels of sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. You need to get enough sleep, which is between seven to ten hours for most athletes. Everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle, workouts, and genetic makeup. We recommend Nighttime Recovery to aid muscle recovery while you sleep.
- Hours slept before twelve at night are proven to be more effective than those slept after.
- Sleep in the most natural setting possible, with minimal to no artificial lights.
- Wakeup with the sun if possible.
- Fresh air and cooler temperatures help to improve the quality of sleep.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. Athletes tend to be very attentive to hydration levels close to and during competitions, but keeping that awareness during training and recovery times can make just as large an impact. Water helps all of our functions.
The simplest way to check hydration is to look at the color of your urine. If it is clear to pale yellow you are hydrated. The darker the color in your pee the less hydrated you are. But don’t rely on that solely. Common dehydration signs include headache and dizziness as well.
- Water is the best way to hydrate. If you need flavoring, lemons or limes are best.
- Electrolyte replacement drinks are also necessary before, during, and after strenuous training or completion but are not created equal. They can vary in sugar and calories and should be utilized with the intention of replenishing your system. Many heavily advertised “Sports drinks” taste good but again may not be best. We recommend Rehydrate and/or Rehydrate Gel for its great quality and hydration benefits.
Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to poison it. Alcohol and processed foods are not good mainstays; keep fresh and natural whenever possible. We do not like to recommend a specific diet, but eating clean and balanced meals in moderation is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance.
Know your level of activity and what nutrition requirements it takes to fuel and recover. Most people do not know how much protein they need and often do not consume enough for their physical output. We recommend supplementing your protein needs with Post-Workout Recovery, Muscle Gain, Meal Replacement Shakes or the easy Ready-To-Drink Protein. Those carb watchers, if athletes, need to pay mind that carbs are the bodies main source of energy and also protect your muscles. Good carbs that is. Nutrition doesn’t have to be difficult…balanced meals to coincide with activity levels, supplementation as needed, and just listen to your body. It sends more signals than you know.
This is one of the least focused on areas in the American culture. We on average spend more time sitting than any other country in the world, and as a general trend have bad posture. This is not a restful position; sitting or standing with bad posture is harmful. It can lead to back or neck pain, specifically for those with desk jobs. A great couple of products for improved movement and joint health are Flex and Joint Promotion.
You need enough flexibility to move well and remain pain free. Include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups while saving static stretching for after your workouts. Good examples are the squat, hip hinge, and ankle movement. Try to identify tight areas and work on them first. The same stretches you’ve always done may not be what you need now. New variations can be found many places online or by attending a yoga class, etc. but worth looking into.
Self-myofascial release (aka foam rolling) is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. This method can be performed with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Theracane, or your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice. A great product for muscle repair and protection is Catalyst.
Heat, Ice, and Compression
Use these techniques for recovering from injuries or very stressful training or racing experience such as a road marathon or the CrossFit Games.
Spending the time focusing on rest and recovery can immensely enhance performance besides adding more training time. Take full advantage of it! If you can dedicate additional time primarily to 1. Sleep, 2. Hydration, and 3. Nutrition, you will increase your output ability, decrease recovery time, and lower your risk of injury. Isn’t that what all coaches and athletes aim for?
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.
Excerpts: Kuhland, Jeff. “7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery.” Breaking Muscle, 6 Nov. 2017, breakingmuscle.com/fitness/7-essential-elements-of-rest-and-recovery.