We can’t go hard all the time, even if we want to! Without breaks or periods of rest, the body doesn’t repair itself and can’t get stronger. The recovery phase is where our bodies and our minds adapt to the stress placed on them.
It’s hard though! Once we get into a rhythm with our workouts who wants to stop? After all, it took a while to get started in the first place. Sometimes we fear recovery. Perhaps it’s the fear of having to start again, fear of losing fitness, or fear that we haven’t done enough. This fear takes over and we lose focus on the fact that rest and recovery are part of training and part of improving. Just like the mind and body need sleep daily to reset our circuits and take care of clean-up and repair, our bodies need regular periods of low/no intensity, low/no volume and sometimes days or weeks off to fully recover.
While there is no one size fits all approach, generally speaking, most people can benefit from:
- Recovery day: 1 day off every 7-14 days
- Recovery week: 4-7 days of less intense less volume at least once per month in their training cycles
- Recovery cycle: a full cycle of unstructured or different training once per year or training phase
Enhanced Recovery Techniques:
Various techniques exist for enhancing/improving or attempting to improve recovery in addition to pure rest. These include but are not limited to: hot and cold baths, compression garments, massage and other manual modalities, nutrition strategies, supplementation, topical creams and stretching.
While some techniques show more success than others in terms of enhancing recovery a key to note is that we might not always want to enhance or accelerate recovery in order to improve performance. Strenuous workouts break down the body and it is through the repair process that the body improves and adapts to this stress. If we continually super-compensate this process with outside assistance (things other than balance nutrition, hydration and rest) the body doesn’t learn to adapt in the same manner and can potentially lead to a decrease in performance.
Things to consider:
- As we age our bodies usually require more frequent periods of rest
- Women recover differently than men
- Training environments such as heat or altitude will change the need for recovery.
- Don’t over supplement or aim to enhance recovery through recovery techniques all the time. Rather support the body with balance nutrition and periods of rest most often, and save the enhanced recovery techniques for specific times such as competition phases where you need to perform and recover multiple times at an accelerated rate
- If you don’t make time for recovery, your body will make sure that you do, usually in the form of illness or injury
- Proper recovery is part a key factor in improving/maximizing your athletic performance
By Tara Postnikoff