Doing nothing, or the fear of doing nothing is often an athlete’s biggest downfall. A common perception within athletes is that training makes you better, now of course this is true however the fitness and performance benefits are only actually seen during rest periods and recovery. Great training can only be effective if it is combined with great rest, but how hard can resting be?
Here are our top 5 tips for great rest to promote fitness and performance gains.
1. Resting and recovering is not just being lazy.
The common perception is that the more you train the better you become; many athletes live by this rule and train themselves into the ground getting more and more fatigue until the body either psychologically or physiologically cannot carry on. Having confidence in the resting and recovering process is crucial to allow your body to adapt as required, tapering for up to 10 days before your event is not unheard of. Now for amateur athletes it is not always possible to just put your feet up and relax for a week, work, family, social commitments and general living also have to happen. However if you are able to find time for 10 hours of training a week then you will be able to find at least that for rest.
2. Drink, Drink, Drink (and we don’t mean alcohol…)
In Males around 50-65% of total body weight is made up of water or fluid, for females this figure is around 45-60%. It is essential to drink fluids during exercise to replenish what we loss through sweating, however it is just as important to maintain good fluid intake before and after training as well as during periods of rest. Fluid is essential to maintain body functions such as;
o Maintain body temperature
o Lubricate and cushion joints
o Waste removal
o Aids in digestion
o Higher blood plasma means more efficient delivery of oxygen to working muscles
3. Massage (of course)
Although maybe a little biased, sports massage can be one of the most effective ways to recover and rebuild. The umbrella term ‘sports massage’ has many different techniques that sit under, each having their own unique effects upon the body. Massage is also very effective at preventing injury as it relieves muscles tightness and tensions that often cause overuse injuries. Recovery benefits of Massage;
o Increases blood flow which is essential in delivering nutrients, proteins and oxygen to help rebuild muscle tissue.
o Increase lymph flow, the lymphatic system helps drain any waster products away from the tissues and into the blood stream.
o Produces a relaxation effect throughout the body allowing the natural healing process to become more efficient.
o Swelling and inflammation associated with intense activity can be significantly reduced.
There is always time for stretching; it does not have to take hours. Ensure your stretching is specific to you; focus on areas you use predominantly for you sport. 3-4 different stretches held for 20 seconds each twice a day will keep muscle elasticity high speeding up recovery times but also improving the muscles fibres ability to contract and relax quickly. Stretching after a hot shower or bath is also extremely effective as muscles are thermo-elastic, meaning they performed better when warm.
o Stretching reduces muscle soreness and stiffness allowing them to perform better during your next training session
o The rebound effect of a static stretch (releasing a stretch) causes sudden blood flow increases to the area.
o Increased flexibility
o Stretching activities such as yoga impact upon the parasympathetic causing a relaxation effect which allows the body to return to a status of homoeostasis and adaptation.
5. And the best one of all… get more sleep.
Instead of getting up at an outrageous hour in the morning to carry out you pre-work training, lie in and catch up on sleep. Sleep is the bodies ultimate rest period, physical activity is kept to a minimal with only involuntary muscles such as the myocardium (heart) having to work. Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase levels of stress hormone Cortisol, production of essential fuels such as glycogen and carbohydrates are decreased during periods of sleep deprivation. Levels of fatigue are therefore very closely linked to the amount of sleep we are getting, more sleep = lower levels of fatigue. 7-9 hours of good quality sleep are sufficient to allow the body to recover, however after a period of intense training if you feel that more than 9 hours is required than listen to your body. As with tip one this is being lazy, it is being sensible.