Exercising is a key component of living a healthy lifestyle, but there are many underlying factors that go into maximizing what your body can achieve. If the main focus of your training regime is showing up to the gym and giving 110%, then you’re off to a good start. But something that you need to consider is how you take care of your body outside of the gym which will help you achieve your peak performance during your workout. Rest and recovery are something most athletes overlook, and you need to ask yourself if you are fueling your body with what it needs to help you long term. Finding a rest and recovery routine will help you maximize muscle recovery, which will allow you to perform better at the gym!
What is the difference between rest and recovery?
Rest is simply a combination of sleep and time spent not training. While recovery refers to techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair, including things such as hydration, nutrition, stretching, heat, ice, compression, stress management, and time spent standing versus sitting and lying down. All of these actions will help improve your hormonal, neurological, and structural systems, which will help you perform better in the box.
Nobody is perfect, we’re all human beings and we need to accept this. However, if you are not training to be a professional athlete, the 80-20 Rule is a perfect rule to follow. Simply stated 80% of your time should be spent focusing on diet and exercise (including rest), while 20% of your time should be spent enjoying the beauty of everyday life. Transitioning to this lifestyle is not easy, sticking with the routine is even harder, but challenging yourself and reaching your goals is one of the best feelings in the world!
Sleep is the most important factor of recovery. Sleep increases your mental health, hormonal balance, and muscle recovery. The recommended amount of sleep is between 7 and 10 hours a night. Each person is different so monitoring your sleep schedule and adjusting it accordingly will help you maximize recovery. A couple nights of bad sleep isn’t going to alter your performance tremendously, but constant insufficient sleep can result in subtle changes in hormone levels.
Hydration and Nutrition
Keeping your body fueled and hydrated is just as, if not more important, than training itself. People tend to keep a close eye on their hydration when exercising and neglect it throughout the rest of their day. Keeping a close eye on hydration during recovery not only helps you perform better but also improves skin tone, hair quality, and can also lower levels of stress on the heart.
Everything you eat, specifically post workout, can either help or hurt your body. Some of the best recovery foods include fast-digesting carbs, potassium rich leafy greens, omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, and antioxidants such as blueberries. Creating a personalized meal plan including these varieties of foods will have you looking and feeling better. If you have a tendency to snack between meals be sure to have healthy alternatives ready such as mixed nuts or fruits, so you don’t deplete previous meals with unhealthy treats.
It is easy to overlook what your body needs post workout and you need to be conscious of what you eat and what stretches you do after your workout. Small habits add up to big changes over time which is why it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Stretching is something that you should do before and after a workout. Incorporate dynamic stretching (movement based) for your warm up, and include static stretching (holding a stretch 20-30 seconds) in your cool down. Depending on the severity of your workout consider heat, ice, and compression to help your muscles recover as well.
It may be a lot to take in, but slowly transforming your habits to include these suggestions into your daily routine will pay dividends long term. Taking care of your body will help you feel and perform better both mentally and physically. Allowing yourself the proper amount of rest and recovery is imperative when trying to reach your fitness goals.