Give Me a Break! The Importance of Rest and Recovery

“I think you need to rest!” This is one of the hardest things for a competitive athlete to hear. Trust me, I know--- I used hear it on a weekly basis! Why does the thought of giving your body a break from exercise seem so scary? Maybe because it feels like you are wasting time or (even worse) slacking! But taking a day off to rest and recover is not only smart, it is absolutely necessary if you want to get the most from your workouts.

A 4 a.m. wake up call followed by a high intensity training session is how I typically start my day. One of my favorite benefits of an early morning workout is that it allows your body and mind to wake up gradually, and energizes you for what lies ahead. The only way I could possibly wake up this early, without hitting snooze several times, is to make sure I am in bed by 9:30 p.m. I know that seems ridiculously early, but studies have shown that the body restores energy and repairs muscle tissues while we sleep. So, essentially, your body is still working hard—just in a different way. If I didn’t go to bed until 11p.m. or later, my body would not be rested, my workout would not be as effective, and my risk of injury would be greater. Worse yet, I might be too tired to show up for my workout at all! It can be hard to get into the “early to bed early to rise” habit, but commitment and consistency make all the difference in the long run.

Just as important as rest is recovery. People tend to use the terms “rest” and “recovery,” interchangeably when talking about exercise, but they are not the same thing. While rest refers to your sleeping patterns, recovery has to do with the ways in which you rehabilitate your body after a workout. This can include foam rolling, stretching, compression, a soak in a warm bath or my favorite, a monthly massage. You can also simply refrain from all physical activity for a day or two. Yes, believe it or not, you can spend an afternoon on the couch without becoming a couch potato.

Everyone’s body is different, so there is not a textbook answer for how long you should recover. The key is to listen and understand your body, it will tell you what it needs. If you are an active athlete, rest days can even incorporate exercises like yoga or swimming that allow you to stretch, and place little strain on the body. If you are a novice, some professionals recommend giving yourself 24 to 48 hours between workout sessions to see how your body is feeling and reacting.

As someone who balances a full time career with teaching indoor cycling---not to mention training and competing in my down time, I understand how it can seem impossible to achieve all your goals and still make time to rest and recover. But planning ahead and scheduling your rest days in the same way that you would schedule your workouts is a great way to keep yourself on track.

So embrace and enjoy those moments ---- there is nothing to feel guilty about! Like everything else in life, it’s all about moderation and finding that balance that works for your body. For an easy to follow break down on the elements of effective rest and recovery, click here. And remember, listen to your body, listen to your mind, and go ahead---give yourself a break!

Words of Wisdom:

“Eighty percent of your time can be spent focusing on diet and exercise, while twenty percent should be left for enjoying life. In other words, don’t let yourself get too wrapped up in perfection.”

- Jeff Kuhland, Coach