One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as an athlete is the importance of rest and recovery times.
You’d think it should be easy, right? It should be easy to just take a day off and not train. It should be easy to come off of months of heavy training for an event and greatly reduce my training volume and just enjoy some easier workouts.
There’s a couple factors that can come into play here, well, at least for me. Once I’m disciplined to something it’s very hard for me to not do it. I can be rather driven with whatever I’m focused on. Mentally as well, it’s hard to not do it although I intellectually grasp the importance of focused rest. My body and mind thrive on it, that structured often intense training.
My mind and body need the work but they also need the rest.
I’ve also learned active rest doesn’t involve laying on the sofa eating crappy food and being lazy.
Well what is involved with recovery?
Recovery times are designed to let our muscles heal and recover from all we put them through in training. It allows the body to repair and strengthen itself between workouts.
In a crazy way, when we exert stress on our muscles, it damages the muscles fibers causing them to break apart. During recovery these fibers heal stronger than before, which in turn makes your muscles stronger.
When we rest and eat good foods, our body heals, recovers and builds new tissue.
Active rest for athletes can mean anything from a brisk walk ( what I’ve used when I recover from running a marathon for a couple weeks after) to short easy runs, cycling or anything that doesn’t stress the body.
For me in the past year, yoga has been a good form of not just active recovery but it’s also a wonderful, different form of strength training. Not only that, it also stretches and works those areas that tend to get tight from my running, cycling and strength training.
I’ve come to embrace so many of the moves that although sometimes at the start are a bit stretching, lead to feeling so good. It gives me some looseness and I feel better with it.
And although it helps with recovery, I think it’s also a wonderful strength tool as well.
I did a couple articles on my yoga shenanigans, find them here….
Stretching, bending, flexing and whatnot
Ok I’ll admit. For years I was awful, totally awful, about taking time to do some dynamic warm ups before running or anything else athletic.
I just wanted to get at it.
I was a wee bit better when I finished, but after always feels so good and my body has earned it after working hard.
Since then I’ve learned more importance in taking that time to do activities to help keep me loosened up and prepared for what I love to do.
…..although… I can still be bad about short changing myself on it….. you have permission to give me a hard time if I don’t.
Tools of the trade
There are other things I’ve been schooled on my road to being a ordinary, middle aged female athlete.
It took me a few years to get through this “school” but now I know how important some things are.
For instance a foam roller. I would’ve never believed how amazing a cylinder of hard foam could feel on my body.
Foam rollers if you don’t know, are a method of self massage that lets you really key in on areas that are tight and achy. They also can help promote blood flow to recovering areas and break up knots and tension in muscles.
Then I went to Airosti for some treatments a couple years ago and the therapist told me I should be using a pvc pipe to roll on ’cause my muscles would adjust to foam.
I laughed. I told her she was crazy.
A hard pipe??? to roll my body on?
Ah well, laughing isn’t what I do with it now days as it’s my favorite device of torture… I mean… recovery haha
She was right. The pipe presses into muscles in a different way and doesn’t give as foam will. I use it on my back and roll up to my shoulders.
My quads seriously have a love/hate relationship with it. It kills my calves in a good way.
The pipe wasn’t the only thing I was schooled on.
A lacrosse ball became really good friends with me too. It’s perfect for working into arches of my feet into those muscles and tendons that need released. It also becomes a device of torture when you lay on the floor and position it in a tight muscle in your shoulder and press into it.
Sweet mother of heaven. It puts me somewhere near death and blissful relief, I’m not sure which.
Another acquisition I got for Christmas is a roller with knobs all over it.
Are you seeing a weird pattern here? Devices that hurt, yet weirdly help haha
it looks something like this…..
and it’s perfect to get areas that are knotted or tight.
All of these are wonderful tools for recovery to help tight muscles, to increase blood flow, and promote healing.
And of course, let’s not forget ice and heat which not only help recovery, but gosh, they can feel so good too.
Of course other factors like staying well hydrated and eating good whole foods also contribute to a good rest/recovery day or days.
Learning to embrace days of rest and recovery goes with the athletic process, I’ve learned. slowly but surely. You too should learn to embrace those days as times of healing and restoration for not only your body, but your mind too.
Tell me, if you train or workout, do you allow or take rest and recovery days? Is that hard to do? What are some methods you use for recovery?