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Rest and recovery are topics many hard-core athletes tend to brush off. You don't want to be seen on the couch watching TV when everyone knows you're a Beast. Beasts don't watch TV!
Rest and recovery is also an integral part of any exercise program. In order to perform optimally, your body requires rest. If you think about rest as another workout, it might make it easier to allow yourself to wind down.
Michigan State Univerity Extension defines recovery in two separate categories:
"1. Immediate or short-term recovery - This is the most common form of recovery and occurs within hours after an exercise session or event. Short term recovery includes low-intensity exercise after working out and during the cool-down period.
2. Long term recovery - This refers to recovery periods that are built into a seasonal training schedule and may include days or weeks incorporated into an annual athletic program."
Rest for an athlete is not defined as being completely still. Instead, it's considering the unique aspects of recovery that are as individual as you are. Recovery is largely about tissue regeneration (walking off those DOMs) and nutrient delivery. A rest day is simply a non-training day and may even include exercise-type activities, but ones you can leisurely do.
Examples would be:
- Riding bikes with your child or a friend
- Taking a gentle or restorative (sometimes called Yin) Yoga class
- Taking an easy walk - like an 18:00 min/mile walk
- Playing with your dog
Knowing there is a difference between being a couch-potato and taking an active recovery day should make it easier. Constant high-intensity training can be taxing on your mind and body, and bodies need a real break from the physical stress of exercise. Studies suggest that regularly going over 60 minutes of vigorous or very vigorous exercise daily creates diminishing returns on that work investment. In order to keep your body at its optimum levels of health, regular rest days are as important as your long ruck days.
Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. But when you're actively training for an event, you may need even more. The repairs your body makes while sleeping has real benefits on your performance goals.
How to get better sleep:
- Go to bed an hour earlier and keep going to bed at the same time every night. Take a nap if you're able to during the day if you really need the sleep. Try not to make naps a habit, though, as they can disrupt your sleep cycle at night.
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol, especially before bed. It may help you feel drowsy initially but then disrupts your sleep cycle later.
- Keep your room cooler at bedtime, replace your pillows when they start to wear out and keep your room darker.
- Put that phone away 2 hours before bedtime. Blue light keeps your brain awake. Read a book like in the old times.
- If you can follow the tip above and trust yourself to only use your phone to pull up a meditation app, apps like Breethe and Bhuddify offer free sleep meditations. If you can't trust yourself with your phone, invest in a white noise machine.