Rest is training, too. Everyone needs rest and recovery, both physically and mentally. For me and my training, I take recovery pretty seriously. Physiologically speaking, growth only happens through rest and repair. Most of the time it’s like a set of stairs, in that you don’t always let yourself fully recover before working out again until it’s time to taper.
I have at least one day a week that is completely workout-free and usually work-free. I don’t use run streaks as part of my training because I’m not physiologically on board with them, though I understand there’s a mental factor in the reasoning behind it.
There are a few basic recovery principles I use besides rest. After all, rest is only a small part of recovery.
- After a long and/or hard effort, I’ll usually do a recovery run the next day. It helps keep the blood flowing through those tired, achy muscles desperate for nutrients.
- Speaking of nutrients, fueling is crucial. Know what you’re going to have after your workout before you start. There’s two different windows I try to hit. The first is within 20 minutes post workout – the sooner the better. I opt for a carb/fluid/electrolyte focus (VegaSport Recovery Accelerator). The second window is between 60-90 minutes after my workout, with a protein shake (VegaSport Protein).
- I’m not a fan of ice – unless you have an acute injury. I like to soak in a hot bath with Epsom salt after a hard or long effort. See http://www.struckbystride.com/the-fire-in-the-flame/
- If I have a muscle or tendon that’s starting to nag or I’m just really sore, I’ll apply a comfrey ointment or other herbal lotions.
- I try to set aside time set aside for foam rolling and use of other self-care tools for at least 20 minutes every night (with the exception of my rest day). I use foam rollers, tennis balls, a thumper, cupping therapy, a lacrosse ball, Roll Recovery R8, and various others that I’ve accumulated over the years.
- I do get at least two professional massages per month, partly due to my job, but I think it’s important for athletes, too. You can do a lot yourself, but nothing beats someone else doing it for you.
Getting a good sleep regularly has been a struggle for me since…well, since I graduated high-school and started to adult. Part of it is my personality. I tend to stress and be more anxious than I have to be. But sleep is the body’s time to repair, and it’s crucial to a high-intensity active lifestyle.
Recovery is a lot of work – that’s why I consider it 50% of training. There’s a lot of different and conflicting methods of recovery out there, but everyone has something. Find what works for you and make recovering just as important as the rest of your training.