Rest and recovery, outside of diet and nutrition, are the key components to a successful and sustainable training programme. So making the most of your rest days, and times, is vitally important. On the physical side; your muscles, fascia, nervous system and joints need time to recover and strengthen. This means that programming rest time will ensure you can exert maximum effort, train harder and build more muscle in the subsequent sections of your programme. Your body should be fully prepared, revitalised and not fatigued when your rest period is over. So programming the right rest time and strategy is incredibly important.
This doesn’t mean you need to be completely inactive in order to rest and recover. It’s always best to make sure you’re still keeping lightly active. Whether it’s playing a sport, taking time to go on walks with your family or switching a session in your programme to something more yoga based, or simply working on accessory movements or flexibility & mobility – make sure you enjoy your time away from intensive training. This will help to foster adherence down the line, and mean that you’re not living too much of a regimented lifestyle. Life happens, and we need to make sure we’re enjoying the journey in every capacity, not just the end results.
If you’re working towards a goal or aim for a specific time frame, and your time is precious, you can still incorporate a form of rest by utilising a deload week. This is where you can greatly lower the various parameters of your training, meaning you are still practising various movements. Just make sure that you manage this properly and take some recovery time off training after your time specific requirements. Make sure to be wary of over training – this is where your muscles are in a catabolic state, more often than not, which can lead to muscle tissue breakdown. So without proper rest time, you’ll be doing more harm than good, even though you’ll be training more. And that, in turn, leads to greater injury risk, which, when your in the peak training zone, is the last thing you want.
In terms of time for recovery, there isn’t a specific amount to aim for. Just go on what feels right for you. But if you’re doing more compound movements, training isometrics or covering strength and power training, more recovery time is better than less. I like to work by weeks, or time recovery around life events I know I have coming up, by taking between a few days or a week either side of the event, and then starting again after that.
Maximum intensity and focus isn’t required all the time. Avoid burnout and take it easy. Have fun and just do what you enjoy! You can even use the rest time to analyse your current programme, maybe change up some movements, add some exercises, or take away parts of your training that are no longer beneficial for you.
It’s not only the purely physical side that requires rest and recovery. Make sure you’re getting good sleep, and enough sleep as well. There are many studies out there you can research (just remember scientifically based, and sourced, studies are the ones you should be reading) that state how important sleep is in physical and cognitive development.
Mentally speaking, the world is a very busy place, especially with how we, as human beings, live our daily lives. Technology makes everything so immediate, that it feels like any chance of rest is far, far away. So make sure you’re having a mental rest too, enjoy your hobbies and do things that are psychologically rewarding for you. Maybe delete your favourite social media apps for a while, cut down on screen time, and take some time to enjoy nature. I always love to make the most my reading time when I’m recovering. It’s always good to keep up your mental faculties, and learn about something new.
These are just some of the strategies that you can incorporate to make the most of your rest and recovery time. So what are you waiting for? Get back to that DIY project you started, tick those things of the list you haven’t had time for, or take up a new course that you were thinking about. Just get out there and enjoy the journey that is life!