Rest and Recovery
Time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Go back and read that one more time, and let it sink in. Time is valuable, of the essence, and it cannot be replenished. Just ask the people who are still searching for the fountain of youth.
Now I know what you’re thinking…”I thought this was a blog about recovery and rest, not time management.” I truly believe that how we manage our time is a large predictor of how well we are able to rest and recover (R&R). Coming from a personality who craves busyness and achievement (guess my enneagram type haha), slowing down and resting is not something that comes easy. There can even be some guilt associated with “being still” or taking a day off from the gym or work. Over the past few years I’ve become more aware of when I need to step back and focus on my sleep, reduce my exercise intensity, better manage my nutrition and hydration intake, and just take time to smell the roses…alongside your friends, at brunch, drinking coffee, while petting your dog (insert things that make you happy here).
First, let’s talk about the importance of R&R with training and high intensity exercise. Most of us know that after an intense day of training, especially if it includes high volume, heavy loads, & lots of eccentric work…we are going to be sore, maybe a little run down. The time between training sessions is when your body is actually repairing itself and getting stronger, not during. Exercise depletes your energy stores, causes muscle tissue breakdown, and fluid loss. You know what else depletes your energy…the other 23 hours outside of the gym spent living our busy lives. When we are feeling run down and decide to take a rest day, are you truly being intentional about your recovery/rest, or just skipping your workout? What I mean is, are you substituting your "rest" with 1 million other things that further wear you down. If you feel personally victimized by this statement, please know that I’m guilty of this from time to time as well (Insert straight smile with teeth showing emoji) and we are in this battle together.
Back to the main topic...Proper recovery, sleep, nutrition, water intake, and life balance allow your energy stores to be replenished and your muscle tissue to repair itself, which improves strength and hypertrophy (muscle mass gain). There are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down. What your body can handle depends on a ton of factors: Your fitness level, training frequency, genetics, diet, how hard you push yourself during each session and more. Once you’ve reached this limit, your injury rate increases and you stop making progress. Once you’re overtrained, it’s difficult to come back quickly. Get ahead of it before it becomes a problem! Symptoms of overtraining include general fatigue, increased muscle soreness, trouble sleeping, significantly increased appetite, lack of motivation, weight gain…and the list goes on.
So you know the why, now let’s talk about the how.
The goal of this blog is to not get too in depth on the science of recovery or offer you some sweet PT recovery services/tools (but I’m here if you need me). The goal is to offer some tips on how to be more intentional and effective with our recovery, while still being productive humans.
1. Maximize your sleep by better managing your time. “Try to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night,” they said. I can list at least 50 reasons aka “excuses” why this is not feasible for most people, but to improve sleep efficacy start by better managing your time and activities so you’re in bed by a certain hour. Also be mindful of your sleeping amenities. We spend almost half of our life in bed…so make sure your sleeping arrangements reflect that! When I think of “things” I want to invest in…my mattress and pillow are at the top of the list because of the great deal of TIME spent sleeping. You may find that if you invest in your sleep as much as you invest in your job, training, relationships etc, you could have some pretty neat outcomes.
Also, be on the lookout for an upcoming blog on the science behind sleep and recovery…it gets DEEP! Deep sleep to be exact, which is when Human Growth Hormone (HGH) release is at its peak and is a major component for recovery!
2. Plan your meals. We all need a certain amount of macronutrients and micronutrients to optimize recovery, and if we are having to skip meals or just don’t have a good macro balance within those meals we are missing a key component of body restoration. Meal prepping or investing in a meal prep service is a great way to ensure we are putting our nutrition on the forefront to optimize recovery and properly fuel our bodies.
3. Always have water with you. No you don’t have to carry around the gallon jug of water, a simple water bottle will do :) If water is readily available you are more likely to drink routinely (rocket science, I know). The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends an adequate daily fluid intake of:
About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. This data does not imply that it's okay to sub water for sugary drinks or other fluids! Water is King! Or Queen! Side note, today is "Internal Women's Day" - 3/8/20.
4. “Movement in Medicine.” One of my favorite and most overused sayings, because I believe in it whole heartedly. If you are training 3 days on and 1 day off, make sure on your day off you are not “recovering” by spending all day in the office chair hunched over a computer, or sitting in your recliner for 3+ hours at a time. Gentle movement practices such as yoga, stretching/mobility work, taking a walk around the block, etc. are great ways to get the blood flowing while not over stressing your body. ***I took 5 breaks while writing this blog to eat, do laundry, heat up some bone broth, call a friend while standing up and pacing, and to clean the kitchen*** This is me trying to practice what I preach.
5. Go outside and play! Plan days to go enjoy the lake, park, or take your kiddos to the Zoo. If you’re weird like me, mow the lawn! That can be therapeutic too (shrugs). God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy and play in. Utilize that fitness you have worked so hard for and go outside and enjoy it! Partaking in outdoor activity allows our bodies to be challenged in different ways than we typically train inside the gym which can help to preserve joint and tendon health (unless you are an extreme outdoor enthusiast haha), and exposes our bodies to different motor patterns. Vitamin D exposure has also been linked to improvements in muscle function. Peruse this research article for more info: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021354/
Last but certainly not least…
Listen to your body. Know your limits. Know when it’s time to chill, and actually do it. Know when you need help, and don’t be afraid to ask. Know that if you don’t take care of YOU first, it’s hard to take care of other people. Know that self care does not make you selfish if dosed properly. Be INTENTIONAL with your recovery. Make TIME for recovery. Appreciate moments of REST. P.S......I'm Enneagram 3