Rest and Recovery – Is It Worth The Hype?
Guilt…..frustration….a little depressed….lost – what do these things all have in common? Would you be surprised if the answer was the feelings athletes get when a rest day comes? Although most athletes know that rest days are necessary to ensure the results they desire, many have these type of feelings when that day comes. Rest is physically necessary to help the muscles repair, rebuild, and strengthen. The fact remains that the body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts and continuing to train can actually weaken even the strongest athletes body.
Rest days are critical to sports performance for a variety of reasons; some physiological and some psychological according the Elizabeth Quinn, author of “Why Athletes Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise”. “In the worst-case scenario, too few rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome – a difficult condition to recover from.” So, what is this so-called “overtraining syndrome”? According to Dr. Phil Maffetone, “The overtrainingsyndrome is an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery. The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances.” Sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it? So, let’s see what is truly important in the recovery process.
- Sleep – Simple enough, huh? It’s not just the number of hours of sleep but the quality of sleep. Start a ritual to get you ready for bed at least an hour before going to bed – turn off all electronics and don’t keep any near you. If your phone doubles as an alarm, leave it in another room (this will also help get you up in the morning instead of hitting snooze several times!). When someone goes to bed, depends on their individual schedule, but one thing to remember is to keep the bedroom cool and pitch black. Be careful with your favorite pre-workout! Depending on when you take them and when you work out, it could destroy a good nights sleep! If you are a big coffee drinker, do it before noon! Besides electronics and caffeine, another consideration is timing and size of your evening meal. Larger meals tend to not allow you to sleep as well (especially those that are high carb). Try to give yourself a good 2 or even 3 hours after your largest meal before staring your nighttime routine.
- Nutrition – You mean I can’t have 6 slices of pizza and 2 beers before bed?!?! Seriously though, the body needs to fuel to run like a well-oiled machine and to recover.. You might need to throw in some “good” carbs to replenish the glycogen stores after you just went all out in a work out. If you notice your performance suffering (either not hitting the numbers you want or being tired all the time), it’s either lack of sleep or not enough nutrition to support your training.
- Technique – Incorrect form will wreak havoc on your body. The shearing and compressive forces due to poor movement makes our bodies work overtime, not only during the workout, but after as well. It might take a little bit of time, but the effects of poor technique will wear you out.
- Intensity of Training – Depending on your skill level, strength, endurance, age, etc. going to the max everyday or every workout isn’t necessarily a recipe for growth and development. Basically, every workout should not be treated like you are competing in the CrossFit Games, and you don’t need to treat it as such.
- Environment – Does your gym program specifically for recovery? As part of your daily workout do you include or go through specific mobility protocols or is it something you tend to have to figure out on your own as an athlete? Another aspect of your environment is everything that happens outside of the gym before and after training. How conductive is your lifestyle, occupation, and even relationships to helping you and allowing your body to rest appropriately?
- Self-Care – There are different techniques you can do on your own to help yourself, on your own. Foam rolling, ice baths, active rest, massages, massage balls, epson salt baths, and TENS Unit (electronic pulse impulse pain relief massager). Do it!! Attack the tricky and problem areas. If you are having trouble diagnosing them, ask a coach or a specialist.
- Habit – Make recovery part of your daily routine and lifestyle. Start small with one thing and then work up to building it into your daily routine.
- Attitude – If you are approaching your recovery as something that you have to do, itmight not be as enjoyable. Think of it as a game or as a reward to yourself. If today I go 90%, then tomorrow I get to go 110% in my workout.
- Breathing – This is the one thing we can’t do without, but nobody really pays attention to it. How many times do you actually stop and think about how you are breathing? The depth of your breath, is it through your mouth or your nose, use only your chest or include the belly? Rich Froning attributes his success through controlled breathing (see article here: https://www.boxrox.com/rich-froning-training/ ).. Breathing can both energize and calm you, especially during crucial workouts or life events.
- Meditation – Recovery is not just about the physical. Training and just simply, daily life, can take its toll on us mentally. Great practices to offset these are mindfulness and mediation. Avoid distractions and being present allows us to relish in the moment and not be bogged down by the tension and stressors of our environment. Being present and more positive can also improve overall attitude.
—The 10 Rules of Recovery – WOD Nation (11/28/16)