Rest and Recovery

Recovery, as a part of exercise, is not a new idea but has been getting more attention in the past few years. Rest and recovery mean different things to different people , and I will try to define it better for you here.

Rest is truly taking time away from activity, but the term “active rest” is often used as well. That means that you are active on your “rest days” – further, that you are doing a low intensity workout after a day or two of higher or moderate intensity activities.

Recovery is the time your body needs to heal and rebuild from the loads and stresses you are applying to it. Similarly, recovery does not have to be totally passive, but should be a lower intensity activity if you’re not going to be inactive.

What does this mean to me?

You should not push yourself into moderate or high intensity activity every day. And if you’re new to exercise, it is often recommended that you follow each moderate to high intensity day with a rest day.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), “Rest is an important part of the recovery process. While you are sleeping, your body works to rebuild itself.” Additionally, at least 48 hours should be allowed between higher intensity exercise of the same muscle groups. This allows your muscles the opportunity to rebuild themselves and reduces the risk of overtraining. It’s important to remember that even if you aren’t feeling soreness after a workout, recovery is still important to prevent injuries and replenish what is lost after an exercise session.

What are examples of Rest/Recovery?

Sleep – It is recommended to get about 8 hours of sleep every night. All sources agree the average person should get between 7-9 hours of sleep at night. If you have days where you get more or less , that’s fine. But on average, shoot for 8 hours.

Napping – Another acceptable form of rest and usually does not need to be a long period. The feeling of a need for a nap is not unusual after high intensity activity for longer sessions. Don’t feel bad if you take a short 30-45 minute nap,many highly-trained athletes do.

Yoga – There are many kinds of yoga, and some are designed with recovery, rest, effective breathing, and meditation in mind. The key would be to keep your heart rate below 50% of your approximate maximum level.

Stretching – This is something that the ACSM suggests people can do after exercising and should do at least twice per week to maintain flexibility for better overall movement. It is not something that will get your heart rate up very high, so it’s a great way to rest and recover.

Walking – While this can be a moderate intensity activity, it can also be a low-intensity or recovery type activity. Again, keep your heart rate low. Talk to a friend and just enjoy nature. That will keep it low intensity for you.

Foam Roller or Massage – Some people go crazy with the foam roller, push too hard and cause themselves pain. This means you’re doing it wrong. Massage, from a person or a device, can beuncomfortable, but should not feel sharp. The intention is to improve blood flow and relax active muscles. If it hurts too much, you’re not relaxing. But these both should be very effective forms of rest and recovery.

Play – If you’re so inclined, playing with your family or friends, going to a park, throwing a frisbee or ball for your dog can all be very restful. These are usually intermittent types of activity and are not normally sustained or intense. Feel free to play.

Key Points

Rest and recovery can be completely passive or can be low-intensity activity. If you choose activity, it should be at a heart rate that is below 50% of your projected maximum. Each works effectively to help you perform and be active more effectively with less chance of injury.

Wrap it up

Proper pre and post activity nutrition, hydration, rest, and sleep are the basics to being active without injury. Choosing other muscle recovery strategies like those above and implementing them into your regular activity routine will further improve your performance.