So much of what we dedicate to fitness each week revolves around the physical activity and commitment to exercise and the work it takes to reach our goals. While this is a vital part of the success you might be seeking within your fitness plan, it is equally as, if not more important to take appropriate rest to allow your body to grow, for damaged tissue to repair, and for your nervous system to recover well. Here are a few simple ways to make the most of your rest and recovery days:
1. SLEEP. Nothing helps the system recover like loading up on some quality hours of sleep. This is our bodies prime, and natural way of recovering all of our internal and external systems not only to rest, but to heal. Each individual will have a different requirement for length and duration of sleep, but getting some good quality Z's and shooting for about 7-8 hours at least is a great way to get your rest day started!
2. RELAX. This might seem redundant, but it is super important to understand that on a rest or recovery day, your muscles are not the only parts of your body that need to re-boot. On these days, it is important to manage your sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (calming) nervous systems to best help your overall recovery. If you're body is able to rest and relax, cortisol levels will decrease, allowing muscles to rest and be able to rebuild. Find some time within your day to unplug, kick your feet up, listen to some music, read, do some yoga, take a nap or meditate. These are all easy ways to make sure your nervous system is recovering properly.
3. HYDRATE. You guessed it! The body needs water to function at its best. Water is one of the life-blood elements of great recovery and performance alike. Proper hydration will help you increase cognitive function and focus, improve overall mood, and reduce fatigue. Its important to acknowledge the importance of hydration daily, not just for rest and recovery days. Try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces for a great starting point, and evaluate how you feel from there.
4. EAT. It's imperative that you are consuming not only enough calories but also the appropriate macronutrient proportions to support a healthy lifestyle and the volume and intensity of exercise you are doing. Food quality is huge proponent to the success and speed of your recovery and "real foods" are always the best options to start with. Doing more research around which types of wholesome real foods are less inflammatory to the body, and/or are the richest sources of micronutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants will aide the most in recovering damaged muscle tissue. Try an array of fruits and veggies of all shapes, sizes, and especially colors and load up on healthy fats like avocado, olive and coconut oils, and omega-3's to help reduce inflammation. Most importantly, don't skimp on the protein. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks for your muscles to rebuild and recover. Choose from lean meats, eggs, and fish and pair them with varying combinations of the vegetables and fats listed above. Make sure you are consuming sufficient amounts of protein in every meal and snack to optimize recovery.
5. MOVE. It can be tough (especially if you are experiencing some post exercise soreness) to get up and move blood in the body, but easy, sustainable physical activity like walking, light cycling, swimming, or yoga can be extremely beneficial to helping the muscles recover, and flushing out any of the muscle repair hindering substances that cause soreness or stiffness after exercise. 20-30 minutes of some light blood flow movement is all that it takes to get your body on course to proper recovery and leave you feeling great the next day.
Train Hard, Recover hard, and make the most out of your next rest day!