We meticulously plan our workouts and push ourselves to our limits in pursuit of our goals and a need to constantly better ourselves. But so often the most critical parts of a training protocol are the most under appreciated – rest and recovery. The importance of rest and recovery cannot be ignored in order to realize gains and avoid injury (read more about identifying training injuries here).
While you work out, your muscles tear during contraction and time under tensions. While you rest, and recover, your muscles rebuild and repair resulting in the strong, long and lean body you want. Hence the importance of the progress.
Rest is easy enough to understand, it’s sleep. How restful your sleep is, how long you sleep and how you feel when you wake. But recovery goes beyond a little shut eye. Recovery can be defined as the actions you take to maximize your body’s repair.
Types of Recovery
Really quick, there are actually three forms of recovery:
- Immediate: Occurs during the exercise itself
- Short Term: Occurs during the workout itself, in between exercises or sets
- Training: Occurs between workouts or training sessions
I’m talking about the third, training recovery. Without it you could be doing more harm to your body than good.
Elements of Rest and Recovery
Right, we just defined rest above. Adults need at least 8 hours of sleep not only to repair and rebuild muscles but to also for mental health, hormonal balance and general quality of life. I’ve recently started to prioritize sleep in a major way. ICYMI, click.
Drinking enough water is essential to health, energy, hormonal balance and athletic performance. Not to mention it keeps your skin super clear and fresh looking. Seriously, drinking water is cheaper than Botox…An excellent rule of thumb is to consume half or your bodyweight in ounces. Individual needs may vary, the best way to tell if you’re hydrated is by the color of your urine (TMI).
At the most basic level, food is fuel. If you’re putting something into your body that isn’t serving a purpose to build, heal or strengthen it’s essentially discarded as waste (Jesus, again, TMI!). It’s crucial to implement a balance of macronutrients to indulgence – 80/20. Meaning you’re prioritizing whole foods in the forms of carbs, protein and healthy fats MOST of the time…like 80% of the time.
Stretching and Foam Rolling
Rest days are important, but they shouldn’t be sedentary. Fifteen minutes of foam rolling, stretching or other form of myofascial release will literally release tight muscles and restore tissue. If you were looking for a reason to treat yourself to a (sports) massage, this is IT.
Utilization of Heat or Ice
Heat and ice can help aid muscle recovery but perform very different functions – and aren’t always needed. Ice can help numb pain from injury and reduce any swelling that may be present. But heat does the opposite – it increases blood flow. If you feel as though you may need additional agents to help your training recovery consult a doctor.
The bottom line is training, recovery and rest is a constant cycle that feeds or hinders progress. How can you tell if you’re on the top of your game? If you’re feeling excess fatigue or aren’t seeing the results you want it’s time to check yourself! If you’ve got the energy to be your best-self in and out of the gym, you’re doing something right. You go, Glen Coco.