Monthly Archives: July 2015

Rest and Recovery – Key Tools for Fitness

The quickest way to fitness is to have a plan, follow the plan, and have faith in your fitness. Rest and recovery will make you stronger. Yet recovery seems to be the most difficult aspect of training for so many of us. Often elusive, rest is something we shy away from and recovery is a balance with which we struggle. Read below what Joey Adams of Intelligent Fitness, Shelburne, Vermont, has to say when he coaches his athletes to honor rest and recovery.

Relaxing Paddle. Photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur.

Relaxing Paddle. Photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur.

Rest, relax, restore. Do we allow that in our culture? Do we honor siestas, holidays and just general recovery and restoration? If you are into your fitness and well-being, rest is an essential tool in every individual’s training arsenal. It is time to take time to restore you.

This isn’t about being selfish, it is about being self-full! Anyone can go, go, go – it takes true courage to carve out time to rest, relax, and restore.

Rest and recovery are key ingredients to any athlete’s training. And I would argue that anyone with a goal, a consistent workout schedule, a heart, and lungs is an athlete. For some of us, it might be time to shape up and balance things out.

The people that I work with on their training, and who get the best results in pursuit of their goals, get the best sleep and have planned recovery as part of their training.

Let’s start with sleep hygiene. Sleep is your body’s natural steroid. It is where your body rebuilds, restores and unpacks the day’s cognitive clutter. In sleep the body releases Human Growth Hormone (HgH) and this essential hormone (amongst others) helps build the new and stronger you. A host of other beneficial hormones are released and the stress hormones such as cortisol decrease, giving your adrenal glands a needed rest.

When is the last time you had 8, 9 or 10 hours of sleep? How consistent are your sleep and sleep patterns? Are you averaging 7-8 hours or more a night of uninterrupted sleep?

There are simple things you can do to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Start by turning off electronics an hour or more before bed and Feng Shui the bedroom. Take the electronics out of the bedroom and create a sleep sanctuary, a place to turn off the monkey mind, a place that is cool, comfortable and dark.

Sleep, like any form of training, takes practice. The more you practice the better you get.

The next step in rest and recovery is to plan your recovery day. Yes, you read it right. You need at least one day off from training, and depending on your goals and intensity, you might need two or more. Your day off should be just that, a day off (yes, I know guilt is the gift that keeps on giving).

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re an average person who exercises, you workout 75-150 minutes a week. A person in training for an event might workout 5-20+ hours per week. In an organized schedule, that still leaves plenty of time for rest, even accounting for a job and daily life.

Rest comes in many forms. It can be meditation on your day off or an extra hour of sleep during the time you normally workout. It can be as simple as reading a book with your legs propped up or as active as a massage. The key is REST, and not cramming something else in during that allotted workout time.

Generally, the more intense your workouts are, the more rest you need. And be sure that your workouts are balanced – that they aren’t all out all the time. For cardiovascular athletes I recommend no more than 20-30% of their training volume be above their anaerobic threshold.

Without planned rest you are constantly depleting your body’s energy stores. If you think of your body as a bank account and exercise as a loan, rest is the way to pay back the loan with interest. Otherwise, if you continue to exercise without planned and strategic rest you will start to incur a general debt.

You are taxing your body by depleting stored fuel – glycogen. This will potentially lead to one or many symptoms such as feelings of heavy legs, changes in heart function, blood pressure, sleep, night sweats – just to name a few, sometimes characterized as a “stale” feeling.

With proper rest, balanced with just the right dose of exercise and fueling, you will top off the energy tanks each time you eat and rest instead of slowly depleting your reserves.

It is important to consider nutrition as part of the recovery process. Nutrition not only sets up success during exercise, it sets up success after exercise. Thus, it is recommended that one eats 2-4 hours before exercise and that one eats within 30 minutes post-exercise.

Depending on specificity and intensity of a person’s exercise they may need to get even more dialed in on the pre and post-workout meals. For the average person, it is simply best to eat a sensible meal before working out and a sensible meal or snack after their workout. Food is arguably the second tool in recovery, after rest and sleep.

The next tool is hydration. You don’t need any fancy dyed-blue liquid in a bottle, with a gimmicky name. Water is still pretty good for most of us. Just like reading the ingredients on a banana or a handful of almonds…water’s ingredients are uncomplicated. And when assimilating tools for recovery needs, generally the body best absorbs simple things.

Water, like well timed food, helps the body regain homeostasis, the natural balance point. Only when your body has its basic needs met can it consider building a new and better body.

Once you’ve mastered the rest day you are ready to plan rest weeks. Depending on your age, fitness and intensity level a recovery week might be every 3-6 weeks. A recovery week might mean more days off from training, coupled with different activities, or just lower general intensity.

The key, even in a rest week, is to keep the body guessing. When your mind and body learn something new, it is forced to compensate and adapt.

The quickest way to fitness is to have a plan, to follow the plan, and have faith in your fitness – that rest will make you stronger.

A plan should be a cycle of training that includes building a base, adding in just the right intensity at the right time, building up to a peak and then adding in rest and recovery along the way.

A fitness professional can help you with the right plan based upon your starting point and your goals. It should be a road map to success and like any roadmap there should be several destination points to check in and evaluate how you’re doing. No good journey is complete without a destination, and of course, rest stops along the way. May your fitness pursuits bring you miles of smiles!

Joey Adams, M.S. Exercise Science, Intelligent Fitness, Metabolic Specialist, VO2 assessments and performance analysis.