It's Sunday morning. On top of working all week, you've been gymming and running for all six days. But you get up anyway, despite the voice in your head telling you to go back to bed, the monsoon outside and your significant other still wrapped up in the duvet, away in dreamy land. You chug your coffee, shove on your trainers and drag yourself outside for your 5K.
You come back from your run, soaked through, with you feet squelching in your shoes and feeling like s**t for the rest of your day. And the following week, because you were slightly run down before your Sunday morning and that run was the last nail in the coffin. So now you either push through your cold and still train (but not near as hard or effectively), or you have to take the whole week off training (and maybe even work).
And the solution was simple: you should have stayed in bed on Sunday.
Rest is crucial.
Rest is one of the most important components in recovery, along with food and hydration (which I will talk about below). It lets your body reset itself and build back stronger than before, letting you push harder in your following sessions and achieving your goals faster. If you have to take a week off every month because you've exhausted yourself too much or because you're rundown, you are missing a lot of training and it's holding you back.
If you can't help but be active and be out and about - just go for a nice walk or a calm bike ride but just don't try to push yourself like you do in your training sessions. Even now (I've been training for pushing three years now) I train on a two on, one off basis, meaning I train for two days then I take a day off. It means that I am always fresh for my training and I can push my body to new levels every time (to see why it's important read my progressive overload post).
Maximizing Your Rest
Not everyone will have a whole day to just lay in bed. People have commitments, children, work etc. but there is a few things you can do in just an hour and as you go about your day as well.
- Hydration: This is the easiest of all of the things you can do to maximize and speed up your recovery. Men are around 60 percent water while women are about 55 percent. Water quite literally is life. The list of benefits is as long as your arm: it helps muscle function, it aids digestion (which is very important for recovery as nutrient absorption is the whole point of healthy eating), it keeps your skin and internal organs healthy, it flushes out toxins from your body and it goes on and on. I'm not going to list them all as this post would get very long but if you want to find out more just google the benefits of drinking water. I include my tea and coffee intake into account as well as they are mostly water anyway.
- Food: eat good, nutrient-dense food. And enough of it. I am a big advocate of eating the same amount of calories on rest days as training days. This allows me to get all the nutrients that I need to recover and keeps my energy levels high for the next training day. If you are struggling to figure out what to eat, I will post my contact details at the bottom of the post and I can help you out.
- Hot Baths: hot water dilates your blood vessels which promotes blood flow to your tired muscles. Blood is the carrier of nutrients, so more blood flow = quicker recovery. It will relax your muscles, which in turn will make them feel less tight and achy. Apart from helping your body recover, having a few minutes to yourself might really relax your brain, which means you can go into your next session with full focus and power.
You won't always be able to do all of the things or even some of the things I have talked about above, so the important thing is to not stress out if one day you don't drink enough water or don't eat enough food (or not "clean food"). Your success is your effort over a prolonged period of time, not one day. So try these out as best as you can and as always if you have anymore questions:
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