Why Rest Days Are So Important
This is going to sound crazy, but rest days are hard. The more I train, the more I love it - even crave it - and the more I want to do it. There have been days where I have, or have wanted to, train more than once a day. There have been weeks where I trained for seven straight days, not because I was training for an event, but because one session wasn’t feeling like it was “enough” for me, or because I performed poorly in a session and wanted to improve. So in my mind, to get better, I had to do more….and more…..and more (on less and less sleep). If training is good, more MUST be better, right? Wrong. It took me a solid couple of years to fully understand: more isn’t always more.
It’s all about balance. Proper recovery from training brings not only balance to your mental health and hormone levels, but to your muscle recovery as well. Recovery is where gains in your training are truly made. Remember, the exercises you are doing are breaking down your muscles, so if you don’t give them the chance to heal, they will never grow bigger or make you stronger. Over-training and poor recovery will pretty much guarantee: you will burn out, you will plateau, you will run a greater risk of overuse injury, and you will start to see diminishing returns - the fatigue your body experiences will decrease your gains. Figuring out how much or how little training to do is similar to finding the appropriate dose of medication. Too little is ineffective, and too much can be toxic.
Making recovery a focused part of your training regimen requires consistent, disciplined effort - much like the consistent, disciplined effort you bring to the Dojo every session. Recovery isn’t simply resting, as in laying on the couch all day. Active rest can include activities like walking with your family, your dog, etc. But, running a few miles on each of your “off” days will not allow your body to fully recover.
Recovery has many parts, and when combined with regular training, you become better. The basic tools of recovery include:
Sleep: Hands down your most important recovery tool. Get a minimum of seven hours a night and watch that balance you are striving for become more of a reality.
Nutrition: Food is the best medicine you can put in your body. Inflammation in our bodies often causes post-training soreness. The best way to fight that is with anti-inflammatory foods. Food has the power to heal you or poison you. If you train hard and hit the drive thru three times a week, why are you even training? You can’t out train a bad diet.
Hydration: Water, water, water. Get some - then go again. Water helps all of our bodily functions and detoxes our system.
Focusing on balance and recovery as a tool, rather than constantly feeling you need more, will take you to the next level and will make you MORE.