7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are critical components of any successful training program. They are also the least planned and underutilized ways to enhance performance. You may not be aware there is a difference between rest and recovery or how to properly implement them both. If you train for ten hours per week, you have 158 non-training hours or 95% of your time left for rest and recovery. Where is all of this “extra” time going and why do you walk into your workout dragging?

Most easily defined as a combination of sleep and time spent not training, rest is the easiest to understand and implement. How you sleep and spend this time is very critical.

Recovery, however, refers to techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. These include hydration, nutrition, posture, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, and time spent standing versus sitting versus lying down. Recovery is multifaceted and encompasses more than just muscle repair. Recovery involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state, and more.

We have different systems that need to recover. These include hormonal, neurological, and structural. 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. Life for an athlete who sacrifices everything for the sake of performance can very lonely and tiresome.

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 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 we will break down 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 others also.

Elements of Rest and Recovery

1. Sleep
2. Hydration
3. Nutrition
4. Posture
5. Stretching
6. Self-Myofascial Release
7. Heat, Ice, and Compression

Spending some additional time focusing on rest and recovery can pay dividends beyond additional training time. It’s essentially legal performance enhancement, yet people don’t take advantage of it because it takes time. Dedicating additional time primarily to the three categories of sleep, hydration, and nutrition will increase your output ability, decrease recovery time, and lower your risk of injury. It’s the trifecta that all coaches and athletes aim for, yet most people miss the mark because they don’t want to dedicate time to the little things that matter most. 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.

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