Rest and Recovery
As we approach the end of 2016, and, inevitably, the beginning of 2017, we at American Top Team – Watertown felt a good topic to cover is the importance of rest and recovery in any workout or training regimen.
All too often we are exposed to the notion of “New Year, New Me!” and accompanying online articles like “30 Days to Fit!” and “60 Days to the Best You!” Yet time and time again we see these programs fail. We see those who were so enthusiastic and gun-ho on January 1st back on their couches with a bag of chips and a heart full of disappointment by Groundhog’s Day.
Now, surely there are some people reading this and saying to themselves that it’s because those that undertook these challenges lacked self-control. Or discipline. Or motivation. Or were subject to any number of self-induced deficiencies that kept them from succeeding.
Some could argue those people are not entirely wrong but would it also be wrong to say a lot of these quick fix programs are designed to fail?
You get off your couch and bust your tail for 30 … or 60 … or 90 days to get quick results but then you’re exhausted. And no wonder? You’ve spent your weekends and nights for however long relaxing and indulging your every gluttonous whim only to suddenly plunge into and high energy, high intensity workouts for 30 straight days. Come day 31, you’re tired, you want to quit and the gym is no longer cutting it anymore. It seems another New Year’s resolution is about to get lost in the cracks of the couch.
So how do you avoid this wall so many seem to smash into? Better yet, how does one smash through the wall if it’s met?
The most obvious answer is that our body needs a break. Six hard days of working out is more than enough to tire out even the most seasoned athlete, let alone the couch-to-fit beginner.
At ATT, members who really push it tend to come in for two workouts a day, typically for anywhere from an hour to three hours a night. In this time, they could be working on technical aspects of their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai, live sparring or partaking in one of our several strength and conditioning classes.
After a full week of such a driving schedule, these athletes are exhausted and many tend to take a day to rest and recoup. For those not at that level yet, these rest days are even more important so if you’re feeling tired, take a look at your week and figure out where you can squeeze in a little more rest, get some extra sleep and have a good, healthy meal. Come the next day, you’ll be eager to get back on the mats.
Once you get going and really start to feel the results of a more active lifestyle, a day off per week may seem a bit excessive. But, for those who are already at this point and for those who are will one day be there: hold on to your pants for this next tip.
Enter, the rest week. Yes, a week, meaning seven calendar days. This extended period of rest is most commonly used by our stable of MMA fighters to recover from a fight and the proceeding fight camp but sometimes even before if camp has been particularly grueling.
You don’t have to be a cage fighter to reap the rewards of such a break from regularly scheduled activity, in fact, many of our coaches here at ATT will say taking breaks like this are crucial to the success of any fitness program. The full week will give your body plenty of time to recharge and repair. Once those muscles stop aching and the eyelids feel a little lighter, you’ll be itching to get back in the gym and get back to work.
Beyond the Pain
Let’s not overlook the mental effects of a rest day.
Knowing that a day off is right around the corner is sometimes all the motivation one needs to get back into the gym. Feeling worn out? Suck it up, rest day is coming! Feeling like you could go one day without working out and not be any worse off for it? Just wait until rest day.
When planning a rest day, make plans beyond simply not working out. If you want to stay active, plan rest day for a day you can do some running around or housework. Or if you feel like cutting loose, plan your rest day for a Saturday or Sunday. That way you can hit the bars with some friends and not have to worry about feeling sluggish at the gym the next day. Perhaps plan a trip out of town and not have to worry about missing a gym day.
If you do want to cut loose, still be mindful of the week that lies ahead but alcohol and its relationship with a workout regimen is a conversation for another day.
With the body properly addressed and the mind properly reset and refocused, you’ll most likely be thinking about what shorts you’re going to be wearing to the gym before your head even touches the pillow.
The Bigger Picture
It’s everyone’s favorite word yet nobody seems to be able to make it work. It’s an obvious subtopic to “Rest and Recovery” but it’s one of the most important facets to healthy, active living.
We’ve all heard it before and, chances are, we’ve all said it before: “I just need to eat right,” or “I need to clean up my diet.” Here at ATT, we’re not nutritionists, but through trial and error, instructors and members alike have managed to piece together helpful tricks to managing a healthy and efficient diet.
Tip No. 1: READ! Go online, read an article. Then, when you’re done, read another one. Then read thirty more. Go to various scientific publications and read the studies. Check out sports medicine sites. Read strength and conditioning blogs.
Tip No. 2: For the love of yourself, stay away from tabloids and click-bait. Check and re-check and verify your sources. Superfoods do not exist in the capacity that magazines would have you believe and fad diets and gimmicks are just as ineffective now as they were in the ‘80s when people thought grapefruits were the key to being skinny. These less-than-reputable sources of information are simply not true. Regardless of how many “Likes” and “Shares” it has on Facebook.Learn how to balance your diet, learn how to incorporate your diet in with your training plan and how it will help your body recover more quickly and efficiently.
And, finally, Tip No. 3: SLEEP!
We are, after all, talking about rest and recovery. What’s the most common way people rest? By sleeping. There is plenty of research that suggests a solid eight hours of sleep a night maximizes your body’s recovery time, not only physically, but mentally.
So whether you are looking to begin a fitness program this New Year, or you are already set into a solid program and are just reading this for kicks, please, be kind to your body. Get the rest you need, give yourself time to recover in between sessions, and do not stop educating yourself.