Rest and recovery are essential components of any successful training program. Unfortunately, they also happen to be the most underutilized parts of any training program as well. Just like you plan your workouts, you need to schedule your rest and recovery accordingly, and stick to it!
Now, you may think these two are one in the same, but they are different but equally necessary to ensure you can continue to train hard long into your golden years. We’ll cover the differences between the two and how to implement both of them into your weekly training regimen.
Let’s say you train six days each week for approximately one hour. That means you have 162 hours, over 96%, left in the week for rest and recovery. If you have all of this time to recharge, why do you still walk around like a zombie and feel achy all the time? Most likely due to the fact that you’re slacking on your rest (yes, this is possible).
Rest is basically defined as time spent not training, or sleeping. While it’s an incredibly simple and straightforward concept, its implementation is where most fall short. How you rest is critical.
Recovery, is a different animal, however, and refers to techniques or activities used to accelerate and maximize the body’s repair mechanisms. Any number of things fall under the umbrella of “recovery” including: nutrition, hydration, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release (foam-rolling), and low intensity movement (walking vs sitting/laying down).
Recovery is a multi-headed beast and encompasses more than just repairing your muscles; it’s also about healing the mind, nervous system, and hormone levels. Each of these recover at different rates as well. Muscles recover the quickest as they receive direct blood flow rich in nutrients. Ligaments and tendons take longer as they receive indirect blood flow and are more prone to overtraining.
Note, that there is no “perfect” regime for rest and recovery as each individual has their own unique training and recovery capacity. The goal of each individual is to maximize both their training and recovery to continue to push the boundaries of your own physical prowess and ability.
PIllars of Rest & Recovery
Now that you know the difference between rest and recovery here are the various ways you go about accomplishing the two:
Sleep is the the single most important factor to recovery. Sufficient levels of sleep provide more to improve health and recovery than any supplement or device ever could.
You need to get enough sleep (between 7-10 hours each night) to maintain optimal hormone balance, muscle recovery, and mental sanity. Each person has a different sleep requirement based on their life and workout regimen, but aim to get at least 7 hours each night.
Staying properly hydrated is vital to optimal energy, performance, health, and recovery. We tend to stay properly hydrated during periods of peak physical activity (i.e. during workouts or competition) but no so much during time outside of the weight room.
Water improves all aspects of our health and can have a significant impact on your recovery rate. Adequate hydration provides more efficient nutrient uptake, better focus, higher energy levels, better hair quality, and lower stress levels.
Yes, eating right is part of recovery. You wouldn’t put cheap gasoline in the engine of a Ferrari, and your body is no different. The human body is a high-performance machine, and as such, you need high quality, whole foods to provide the fuel to not only power you during your workouts, but to help rebuild the body during your recovery.
Getting in adequate amounts of protein, carbs, fats, and micronutrients (from fruits and veggies) will do far more for recovery than any magical supplement ever could. Stick to whole food sources as your best bet to cover all of your vitamin and mineral bases to ensure your body has all the raw materials needed to build and power the body of a champion!
Also known as foam-rolling, self-myofascial release helps works out trigger points or tender spots that develop in the muscle belly that can hinder recovery and performance. We’ve gone into great length before about the benefits of foam-rolling and how to choose the right one here.
In addition to foam-rolling, stretching and mobility work is also crucial to speeding recovery. The neck, lower back, hips, glutes, shoulders, and ankles are spots that get notoriously tight and immobile due to hours of sitting at a desk or bearing the load of heavy weights.
You need to remain flexible to move well and remain free of aches and pains. Include dynamic stretches as part of your warm up and then do static stretches after your workout or on “off” days to lengthen the muscles that get tightened up during workouts. Identify those particularly “tight” areas and focus more heavily on those to ensure you stay limber and not hunched over when you’re old and gray.
Heat & Ice
The final tip for rest and recovery is to make smart use of heat and ice wraps. Use these two only as a last resort when recovering from injuries or a particularly grueling training session or event like a marathon.
Focusing just as heavily on rest and recovery as you do on training can pay HUGE dividends to your overall performance and health. It’s basically a legal way to enhance your performance without having to spend all sorts of money on useless supplements.
Dedicating additional time to sleep, hydration, and nutrition will increase your performance output, decrease recovery time, and lessen the risk of injury. It’s a perfect trifecta that many shoot for, but most miss the mark because they don’t dedicate enough time to “the little things.” Don’t become another number among those that are injured, sore, achy, or overtrained. Prioritize your rest and recovery and you will be well on your way to massive GAINS!
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