Today is Wednesday, which means that it’s a rest and recovery day. For me that usually means running errands, and doing a 15-30 minute stretching routine, for the most part I take it pretty easy. I haven’t been swimming as much as I had wanted since I fit that Fibro flare a couple weeks ago, I’m a little scared to add that 5th day a week workout back into my schedule. It’s always hard for me to remember how important rest and recovery days really are when I’m feeling good.
Yesterday I had a really great training day, and I feel like I need to head to the gym and get back too it. I have to keep reminding myself that rest days, and recovery days, are an important part of every training routine. Especially for me as as a new athlete, and as a person who is training after traumatic injury that left me on bed rest for months. My body needs ample time to repair itself and build new muscle so that I can move forward stronger.
So – how can one actively engage in training while on a rest or recovery day? Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re feeling like rest days don’t count.
- Get a proper sleep. Sleep has a huge impact on athletic performance. An adequate sleep schedule can increase reaction times, and reduce injury rates, as well as lessening your chance of catching a cold. The increased human growth hormone produced during early sleep promotes the growth, maintenance and repair of both muscles and bones. So say goodnight early, and get an extra hour of sleep.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Just because you aren’t working up a sweat doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need water. In fact being well hydrated to begin with allows your body to work even better on your training days. Dehydration can lead to overheating, headaches, and muscle fatigue. Count those glasses of water on your rest days and be sure you get enough.
- Eat well balanced meals. Uhhh… yea. This one is pretty hard for me, but I know that t he better quality of food that I put in my body, the better performance I will get out of my body. Right now I am trying to eat closer to the earth with fewer preservatives and pre-packaged foods. Focusing on this especially on my rest days allows me to stay mentally engaged with my goals.
- Keep moving… gently. While you should avoid strenuous workouts on your rest days, gentle activity keeps you limber and your body from stiffening up. Rest days actually help athletes keep from getting injuries that come from overuse and repetitive stress. Maintaining a light home stretching routine or yoga practice, get out and take a stroll, or even going shopping. Can keep you moving while allowing time for your body to recovery from your last workout.
- Socialize. That’s not one that you find on most lists, but keeping in touch with friends and family support system is an important part of mental health. Athletes, especially endurance runners who spend long hours alone on the pavement need to be sure that they get a chance to socialize. Switching you mind “off” from your training routine for a bit will actually help you recharge and avoid burnout. I actually have one rest day a week that is reserved specifically for hanging out with the people I love.