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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.
One of the more popular recent voices on the subject promotes a plant-based diet in a big way: The Game Changers. This Netflix special proposes eliminating meat from your diet and replacing it with plant-based sources of protein and nutrition.
Having spent years as a vegan and understanding the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, I couldn’t help but agree with many of the points brought to light in the film.
As a medical doctor, I saw a fundamental flaw in his information: plant-based proteins do not contain enough of each essential amino acid for most of to provide their bodies the wherewithall to optimize body protein synthesis. This is a fact observed through my own experience, through the experience of my patients, and backed by scientific research.
You know that the cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen throughout your system, right? And that the endocrine system manages hormones? And that your nervous system relays messages throughout your body?
Well, underlying all these systems is an astoundingly complex electrical system.
This electrical system is busy sending an almost uncountable number of messages to the muscles, bones, brain, and the cells. The human brain is the home to approximately 100 billion neurons, each firing about 200 times every second.
Sometimes it feels like there are more types and brands of water than drops in the ocean. You go to the grocery store and discover a huge shelf packed with different brands of water that all claim to be health-beneficial. Add in the hundreds of in-house water purifiers, and it can seem like a “sea” of confusing options (cue the pun).
Thankfully, your choice doesn’t have to be that complicated.