‘Rest’ and ‘recovery’ are two words which are often overlooked by both elite athletes and many of the general population. We now live in a world where there is apparently ‘no time’ to fit in rest and relaxation. This is an interesting paradox as it is scientifically proven that in order for the body to become stronger, faster, and fitter, it needs to rest.
Without proper rest, the body is unable to recover from one session to the next. This can create a downward spiral in training and lead to illness and injury. This term is commonly known as overtraining and if it is not prevented, it can seriously effect a person’s fitness and general health. Following the five points below will help to prevent overtraining and ensure that the body and mind are rested and recover between exercises.
- Listen to your body – One of the most effective ways to recover and prevent overtraining is to listen to your body. Recognising the signs of fatigue will enable you to know when to exercise and when resting is a better option. Everybody is physiologically different, your body may react differently to training as another person. Therefore, find out what works for you and how your body reacts to different exercise sessions and routines.
- Sleep – Adequate sleep is imperative to recover from physical and mental stress. Aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep a night will ensure a proper deep sleep to recover from exercise. During deep sleep, growth hormone is released, which enables the muscles to recover from the damage that comes with intense exercise. So, sleep is crucial to the recovery process and should not be sacrificed to fit in more training.
- Nutrition – Correct nutrition is not just what you eat, but when you eat. This is very important when working out as not eating enough around exercise will hinder the recovery process. Before hard exercise, make sure the body has enough energy to work out effectively. If a meal is not consumed 2-3 hours before exercise, go for a snack with carbohydrate such as fruit to fuel the body before training. After exercise make sure you intake carbohydrates and protein as soon as you can and ideally not later than 30 minutes after the workout. During this time, the body needs fuel to help replenish the muscles and start the recovery process.
- Train progressively – In order to improve fitness, the body needs to undergo an increase in training load. This is best done gradually over an extensive period of time. For example, it is highly advised not to jump into doing a marathon before you are confident you can complete the distance. As a general rule, try not to increase your weekly training volume by more than 10%. For example, if you trained for 10 hours in a week, don’t exceed 11 hours in the following week.
- Have a plan – Make sure your exercise can fit into your personal schedule. Waking up at 4am and exercising before work is not a good idea for the morning after having heavy dinner and drinks with friends. Ensure your plan is flexible and try to maintain a general outline of your exercise. Flexibility means you can alter workouts to suit you, so you are not caught up in a schedule which is not realistically feasible. So, commit to a plan but do keep in mind that life is dynamic and sometimes the plan can be altered to those unexpected events.
Following the five tips above will help to avoid overtraining and ensure adequate rest and recovery maintained between exercises. Remember, during rest, the body adapts to the exercise stimulus and becomes stronger. So, if you want to get fitter, faster and stronger then put your feet up, kick back and rest like the best!