Rest and recovery are very important aspects of any successful training program. There is a difference between rest and recovery or how to implement them both into your training programme. Rest can be defined as a combination of sleep and time spent not training, it is the easiest to understand and implement. How you spend this time and sleep is very important. Recovery, refers to actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. These include nutrition, hydration, posture, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, also time spent standing versus sitting versus lying down. Recovery encompasses more than just muscle repair.

It involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state, and more. We have different systems that need to recover. These include structural, neurological and hormonal. 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.

Order your favorite beer and get the ribs as this may mentally benefit you more, allow you to unwind, and put you in a better place to perform as opposed to another solitary night of broccoli and chicken. A balanced combination of rest and recovery along with proper diet and exercise should be a part of any fitness regimen. Unless you are competing at an elite level, you should follow the follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your time can be spent focusing on diet and exercise, while twenty percent should be left for enjoying life. In other words, don’t let yourself get too wrapped up in perfection. Below is a break down of the 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 friends and family.

Elements of Rest and Recovery 

1. Sleep

Sleep is the most important action for recovery. Healthy levels of sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. You need to get enough sleep, which is 7-10 hours for most people. Everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle, workouts, and genetic makeup.

  • 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.

2. Hydration

Drinking enough water is vital 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 in all of our daily bodily functions. A few examples are more efficient nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart, improved skin quality, and better hair health. The simplest way to check hydration is to look at your urine. If it is clear to pale yellow you are hydrated. The darker and more color in your pee the less hydrated you are and more water you need to drink. That is unless you have been taking vitamin supplements which may change the colour of your urine temporarily. Water is the best way to hydrate. Sports drinks are only needed for before, during, and after strenuous training or completion, don’t drink them simply because they taste good.

  • Flavorings and other additives only give your system more to process and cause it further strain. Stick to adding a lemon or lime.

3. Nutrition

Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to poison/injure it. Alcohol and processed foods contain toxins and are harmful to the body. Eating clean, eating close to the source, and eating balanced meals in moderation is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance.

  • Create a meal plan and shop ahead for the week.
  • Have healthy snacks readily available that you enjoy.
  • Plan ahead for dinner out by helping to pick the place you’re eating and looking at the menu ahead of time.

4. Posture

We spend more time sitting in the present day compared to the last decade and the decade before that. This is not a restful position; sitting or standing with poor posture is harmful. It can lead to back or neck pain, specifically for those with desk jobs.

  • Find a chair that is ergonomically correct.
  • If you struggle to sit upright use a lumbar roll in the small of your back, sit on a stool without a back, sit on a swiss ball (all in moderation).
  • Don’t lean to one side or on an object for support while standing. Instead you should try step standing, ie. Putting one foot up on a ledge or step for a period of time and engage the straight leg glute muscle and activate your core.

5. Stretching

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. Yoga is a fantastic way of gaining flexibility and also strength.

6. Self-Myofascial Release

Tight muscles and trigger points sometimes need assistance to return to healthy normal tissue. Use a foam roller to keep your myofascia in good health.

7. Heat, Ice, and Compression

Use these techniques for recovering from injuries or a very stressful training or racing experience such as a marathon, triathlon or any intense sporting experience.

8. Conclusion

Spending some time focusing on rest and recovery can pay great dividends. We could describe it as ‘legal performance enhancement’. The most frustrating thing for me as a clinician is that people don’t spend enough time focusing on rest or recovery. Dedicating additional time to the three categories of sleep, hydration, and nutrition will increase your output ability, decrease recovery time, and reduce your risk of injury. Don’t ignore your body until it becomes too late and you’re forced to take unnecessary time off due to injury, burnout, or worse.