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If there’s one area that seems to be underestimated in the world of endurance sports, rest and recovery are near the top of the list. We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. We don’t mind working hard but we better see the results in a hurry. Who has time for recovery anyway?
When my wife was a practicing Physical Therapist, she had a supervisor who was notorious for being constantly on the go with little down time. He was known to average less than 4 hours of sleep each night. When others would question the effectiveness of that practice, he would often say, “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.”
Religions around the world have practiced the concept of Sabbath rest for thousands of years. Having a weekly rest from work is a healthy and rejuvenating practice in order to function at our very best.
Missing Puzzle Pieces
Athletes of all types and levels should also see rest and recovery as the final pieces to the training puzzle. For those who may have forgotten, we break our bodies down during our hard workouts and races.
It’s during the recovery period when all the magic happens. While we rest, our bodies properly adapt to the training stimulus in order to have the ability to go farther and faster in the next hard session.
Push too hard too soon without proper recovery and our bodies let us know loud and clear. Symptoms like fatigue, lingering soreness, lack of motivation, and even going backwards in our training are powerful reminders that rest and recovery are key ingredients in our training recipe.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way on more than one occasion. With spring and summer races being canceled or postponed, Strava has become my competitive outlet of choice.
For those unfamiliar with this app, not only can you record your various activities like running, biking, and swimming but you can also explore “segments” in the area where you live. Segments can be short or long distances and anyone can attempt the course record (CR). When you achieve the record, you’re rewarded with a crown as “king” or “queen” of that segment.
For those of us who are ultra-competitive, going after these segment crowns can be downright addictive. We reason, “It won’t do any harm to grab this short segment even though I went hard yesterday.” And so begins the quest to take more and more “real estate.” Like little Napoleons, we seek to extend our rule and reign in the Strava world.
But there’s always a price to pay for this quick turnaround where rest and recovery have been removed from the equation. At the very least, those of us who have played this game on a regular basis begin feeling worn down and broken. At the worst, we become injured and forced to rest whether we like it or not.
A Few Tips for Proper Rest and Recovery
Here are a few ways to maximize all of that hard earned training…
If we’ll see rest and recovery as a gift to our bodies rather than something to be dreaded, we’ll find ourselves full of energy and reaping the rewards that follow.
Growth Hormone (GH or HGH) is one of the most important hormones in regard to muscle gain and fat loss for men and women:
It increases muscle mass, increases protein synthesis, strengthens bone, internally makes your metabolism “younger,” and is, to a large degree, “anti-aging” in its effects. And it does this in large part by stimulating the uptake of amino acids in the cells.
In fact, GH is so closely tied to amino acids, that not only does GH stimulate the uptake of aminos, but taking aminos stimulates the release of GH to get the cells to take in the aminos.
Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades, and many people are curious whether it is right for them.
Those who believe they have a “slow” metabolism are especially concerned that any form of fasting might further slow the metabolism, leaving them feeling groggy or less energetic, not to mention hungry.
Surprisingly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Intermittent fasting can improve your metabolism while helping you lose weight, along with a slew of other health benefits.
So-called “energy drinks” litter the shelves in health food stores and grocery stores. Each brand promises to deliver the energy boost you need for workouts or just to make it through the day.
The sad truth is that most commercial drinks and drink powders come with a steep price to your health.
Most of the popular brands contain stimulants such as caffeine and high levels of sugar. They make you feel jittery and wired, with a crash that comes soon after.