Important Elements of Rest & 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, but you still have time to learn! 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? How might it be affecting your workout? Or your life?

What is Rest? 

Rest is a combination of sleep and time spent not training. How you sleep and spend this time is very critical.

What is Recovery?

Recovery is a bit different, it 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. Check out: Active Recovery – An Important Piece to Any Program for further reading.

How much rest and recovery do you need?

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. 

Rest and Recovery: Sleep 

Sleep is the most important time to recover. Adequate levels of sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. You need to get enough sleep, which is between seven to ten hours for most athletes. Everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle, workouts, and genetic makeup. And many consider sleep “the underutilized FREE supplement.”

Sleep Pro Tips

  • 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.
  • Wake up with the sun if possible.
  • Fresh air and cooler temperatures help to improve the quality of sleep.

Rest and Recovery: Hydration 

Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical 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 all of our functions. A few examples are more efficient nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart, improved skin tone, and better hair quality. Read more on why hydration is so important. 

Hydration Pro Tips

  • 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, Crystal Lite, and other additives simply give your system more to process and cause it further strain. Stick to adding a lemon or lime. Here’s a ‘suero’ recipe to try!
  • The simplest way to check hydration is to look at your pee. 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.

Rest and Recovery: Nutrition 

Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to poison it. This may sound strong, but alcohol and processed foods contain toxins and are harmful to the body. Eating clean and balanced meals in moderation is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance. Dairy and wheat are processed differently by everyone and you need to educate yourself on these topics and how they personally affect you. Some people process these food items very well and have no side effects, while other people have slight to severe autoimmune reactions. Start with a Paleo diet as your base template and add to it based on your experiences, not what you read by others. Here are some tips to perform on Paleo.

Food in our society goes far beyond fueling the body, so it is not always such a simple choice. We go out to dinner, and most social events and holidays have food available we might be tempted to “enjoy”. The key is achieving balance so you get the results you want, but can also function as a normal person and enjoy life. Remember the 80/20 rule outlined above. It applies here too! Yay! 

Nutrition Pro Tips

  • Create a meal plan and shop ahead for the week. Or employ the help of a meal service. So that you have whole food “ at the ready”
  • 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. 

Rest and Recovery: Body Work 

Body Work is a unique and holistic way of treating the body. You can perform it on your own, with the assistance of a friend, or by a bodyworker. 

Types of body work you can do on our own or with the assistance of a buddy include foam rolling, passive stretching, Mind Muscle Class, gentle Yoga, Hypervolt massage, visualization, floating, breathwork (Read: Rethink Your Breathing), etc.  

Most body workers will use a variety of techniques to treat a specific issue the patient is experiencing. They typically perform a postural analysis. They will be looking for catches, hitches and general imbalances that have manifested with time. When they spot the issues they will be using their knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology to put together what activities or lack thereof might be causing the patient discomfort. They will look at the clients interconnectedness and how they can release tissues to assist in creating a more balanced movement pattern. This can happen passively or actively through massage techniques like A.R.T. where the patient ‘participates’ in the massage by moving the joint being worked on through a range of motion. (Read: Discover A.R.T. for Recovery)

Body work can also be categorized as active or passive. Things like breathwork (Try this Box Breathing Drill to Reduce Stress), visualization, chiropractic, and a massage are all examples of passive body work where Mind Muscle Class, A.R.T., and isometric holds are examples of active body work. 

Body Work Pro Tips

  • Frequency/Consistency – You will want to commit to two to three sessions in a short span of time. This gives their work a chance to set in without waiting so long that the issues will revert to their unbalanced ways again. 
  • Homework – Ask for some exercises  and/or practices to implement into your daily life to keep you on the healing path, and revisit occasionally. Here are some guided visualizations to get you started!
  • Avoid bodywork if you are sick or have a fever – body work promotes blood flow, if you are feeling sick, your body is taxed and pushing additional metabolic waste can further tax your immune system leaving you feeling worse.   
  • Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate – Help your body push that metabolic waste out. Hydrate more than normal. Make sure your urine is clear/light yellow.

Rest and Recovery: Posture 

This is one of the least focused-on areas in the American culture. We on average spend more time sitting than any other country in the world, and as a general trend have bad posture. This is not a restful position; sitting or standing with bad posture is harmful. It can lead to back or neck pain, specifically for those with desk oriented jobs. Check out: Desk Sitter Mobility for more information on how to combat this problem.

Posture Pro Tips

  • Find a chair that is ergonomically correct.
  • If you struggle to sit upright use a foam roller or ball in your back to give you a tactile cue and help force good posture.
  • Don’t lean to one side or on an object for support while standing.
  • Check out some Mind Muscle sessions on our YouTube Channel

Now you have a plan for all that ‘extra time’ on your hands! Although it may be counterintuitive to NOT do anything exercise-related one or two days each week, focusing on your rest and recovery will certainly help advance your training and your life. Let us know in the comments what your favorite recovery day activity is! And be sure to drop any questions you have there too so that one of our expert coaches can get you some answers!


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Louis Aron
Louis Aron
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