Rest and recovery are essential parts of our self-care routine and critical to our overall performance. Most of us know that we need to rest after a long week or a big event, but many of us are still figuring out how to manage the rest and recovery of a workout schedule. Last week dead lifts came back to the gym routine. I’m glad we do them at the end of the week so I can recover over the weekend. Those big movements always zap me. But dead lifts aren’t the only thing that we need to recover from; we should be recovering after each workout. We hear consistent messages about getting to the gym, pushing ourselves, and the virtue of hard work. These are good motivating messages, but sometimes they eclipse part of the self-care picture. My challenge is turning off that noise and listening to my body so that I can maximize my efforts. Invariably my body gives me the message – rest and recover. And that is exactly what I do.
I rest and recover every day.
Why is this so important?
During strength training and exercise, our bodies experience depletion of energy, loss of fluids, and muscle tissue break down. Because of how our bodies function, the work we are doing to get strong happens outside the gym just as much as it does at the gym. Physiologically, rest days and recovery time give the body time to repair, rebuild, and strengthen, and the repaired tissue is stronger than the original muscle. We also want to avoid over-use injuries. It is hard for me to imagine skipping a day at the gym, but I can’t imagine the pain of being sidelined for weeks or even months, especially if it is avoidable.
The second half to the rest and recovery equation is psychological. No one wants to dread going to class, or have to drag themselves to the gym. If we are too tired to be excited and look forward to this week’s progression, to enjoy class, or to even get a full workout in, what is the point of going? If that keeps happening- guess what? We probably won’t stick with our workout routine. Most of us love how we feel at the gym, accomplished, empowered, energized, happy, and we don’t want to jeopardize that.
And finally, something we hear a lot about- life balance. Going to the gym is wonderful, but bringing the joy you find at the gym to the other areas of your life is enriching too. Being strong and healthy so you can enjoy time with your family, gardening, hiking, work, or other hobbies is important to all of us. If we aren’t rested we won’t have the energy to participate in any other life enriching activities and this throws us out of balance.
How do I get stronger, prevent injury, continue to enjoy my workouts, avoid burnout, and create a balanced life?
I rest and recover every day.
Here’s my strategy: Hydration > Nutrition > Stretching > Sleep > Manage Stress
Hydration: I drink at least half my body weight in oz. of water.
Nutrition: I use food as fuel to nourish and support my daily activity.
Stretching: I never miss the dynamic warm-up and static stretch cool down. Foam rolling is a welcomed bonus.
Sleep: I try for 8 hours of sleep a night, and I look forward to at least one day a week without an alarm clock.
Stress management: I pay attention to stress triggers and try to keep these to a minimum. This includes a few minutes of deep breathing in a quiet space in my home.
Here’s the bonus question: “What if I go to the gym 5 days a week, how do I rest and recover between each workout?”
Here’s my strategy: I listen to my body!
I have a few rules about working out. I never lift more than 2 days in a row, and this helps promote a natural rhythm for my body from day to day. I start every workout with a dynamic warm-up. These movements allow me to take a full body inventory so I can adjust my workout. This is my listening time. If I feel tired, or have joint pain I might opt for low impact movements. If I feel a strain, I check in with a trainer, and modify a movement or go to a lower weight and work on my form. Adapting to the messages I hear from my body is the best way to use the time at the gym to promote the next recovery. And finally, if I am sick, sleep-deprived, or hearing a “slow down” message from my body, I stay home. Progress does not mean all the time, all the way, over the top. Progress includes self care, rest, and recovery every day.