Rest and Recovery

Hopefully your new year is off to a great start! It may find you ramping up your exercise plan.  If so, don’t forget about rest and recovery.  Anyone who is active, especially those who are exercising at high intensities, needs to make sure they are also incorporating rest and recovery into their plan.  Overloading your body is necessary to make gains, but so is rest and recovery. We need time to adapt. It’s rest and recovery that help us do that.

Rest and Recovery

What do I mean by rest and recovery? It can mean different things depending on the person and the situation.  It doesn’t mean we have to be on the couch with our feet up and can range from things as simple as deep breathing and meditation to making slight changes in your plan.   The American College of Sports Medicine has some recommendations. But first, ask yourself if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms that may indicate you are not getting enough rest and recovery.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs that you may not be getting adequate recovery and/or your training volume is too high include but are not limited to:

  • Decrease in performance
  • Sleep disorders
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of interest in your activity
  • Headaches
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Increased frequency of illness, especially upper respiratory illness
  • Loss in ability to concentrate
  • Changes in resting heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate

Strategies to Get Adequate Recovery
(Adapted from American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations)

  • Take at least one recovery day every week.  More may be necessary based on your activity level
  • Apply periodization to your training plan
  • Incorporate variety into your plan
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Take steps to manage stress
  • Practice self care
  • Make sure that training volume and training intensity are inversely related.  In other words, if you are exercising at very high intensities, the volume (sets, reps, time, etc.) is low.  If your intensity is low, than volume can be higher
  • Avoid too great a relative intensity (percent of 1 Repetition Maximum) for extended periods
  • Manage training volume (number of sessions, exercises, sets and reps) for extended periods
  • Don’t perform every set of every exercise of every session to absolute failure, with no variation
  • Make sure that when you are selecting exercises you aren’t overusing particular joints or muscle groups
  • Avoid excessive use of eccentric muscle actions.  This refers to those exercises that require your muscles to elongate while you are creating force.  (Ever wondered why you’re so sore after lunges?)
  • Take into account the cumulative training stresses from other forms of exercise.  In other words make sure you are taking into account ALL of your training including cardiovascular training, sport-specific training, etc.

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