When you start a training plan, whether it’s in the gym or in running, you do it everyday because you feel that’s how you get fitter and stronger and you’ve seen all the fitness motivational memes on social media saying someone out there is working harder than you. Rest would seem to be the last thing you’d want to do otherwise you’d risk undoing all the good work you’re doing, right?
What if adding some rest into your training was to get you closer to your goals than training all the time?
Rest is just as important in your training as the workouts themselves to help improve performances and also reduce your risk of injury from overtraining. Rest doesn’t always mean sitting with your feet up although that is to be recommended. You can add some recovery work into your plan so you can perform at your best when you need to and get closer to your goals. Here are my top 5 tips to help you achieve that:
1. Have A Rest Day
I’ll start with the easiest one. You probably already know that muscle fibres breakdown during a workout and it’s during the period afterwards where the tissue repairs and rebuilds ready for the next workout. When you’re doing high volume training like lots of classes, gym workouts or running training then it’s not just the muscles that need time to recover but also the internal organs as they’re working hard to support what you’re doing. Having one day off a week will allow your whole body to recover and recharge for the next workout. Look at the days you train, where the most important workouts are and you’ll have an idea where a day off can go. Putting it in before a big workout can be beneficial.
2. Add in a Recovery Run/Workout
If you do a long run or a workout that lasts longer than others, a low intensity session the next day can help the body recover quicker. In running, doing an easy 20-30 minute run the day after a long run can help flush the lactic acid out of the legs more effectively. Depending on what your workouts are, an easy cardio session or mobility workout that get the muscles you worked in the previous workout can help them recover quicker.
3. Go For Quality As Much As Quantity
It can be easy to see increasing volume being an important factor when setting out on a training plan but are you getting the results you want from this strategy? Are you making as much progress as you should be doing? Are you varying what you do or are you doing the same thing every day? Certainly, in marathon training, you need to get the miles in but you don’t need to be running every day. Think of the key sessions you need in your plan and focus on getting them done, performing them as best you can each time, and use the rest of your time doing stuff that will help you improve in each session. You could potentially get better results by training a third less than what you’re doing just now.
4. Move Better
This is important and many people don’t do enough of this. Whatever your sport or training is, you should aim to move better in the way you need to do for that activity. A lot is placed on strength and conditioning and while having strong muscles is crucial, you need them to work better for the movement you’re about to do. You can have strong muscles but not necessarily run any better if they’re not working through their full range. Think of the movements you require for your activity and train the body to move better through these movements and your muscles will perform them exactly the way you want them to.
5. Get Better Sleep
This is by far the most important one. Just like you don’t tend to be your sharpest at work after a sleepless night, you’re not going to get any quality training if you don’t get enough sleep and you’re also at greater risk of picking up an injury. Focus on getting a good night’s sleep – switch off the internet early, get to bed at a set time, get up at the same time – the more refreshed you are, the better your training will be and the quicker your body will adapt.
Do you factor in rest or recovery into your training? What do you struggle with in your training?