If you are into fitness and/or sports, you know the importance of training hard and following a healthy nutrition plan. However, how often do you plan to take a day off or reduce your training volume? Sometimes the best way to bust through a plateau is to actually back off a little bit and give your body (and mind) a chance to recuperate.
Here are some general guidelines to help you make sure you are getting enough rest:
- At least one day each week should be an active recovery day. This is a perfect day to do some yoga, go for a walk, play a friendly game of croquet, etc. You don’t have to be a lazy bum all day, but certainly take a well-deserved break from your intense training.
- Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired all the time, struggling through your workouts, and find your motivation lacking, then maybe it’s time to change something. Perhaps you need to adjust your training or your workout nutrition. Just because your workout plan says to do something doesn’t mean you have to! On the other hand, there are times when you will be pushing yourself to your limits on purpose for a short period of time (called over-reaching) so this can be a tricky one for some people. One of the benefits of working with an experienced coach is that they can objectively plan and monitor your training & recovery appropriately so that you don’t burn out and also work hard enough to reach your goals.
- Periodization! If you haven’t heard of this before, it simply means that your training changes throughout the year. Most athletes divide their training into different phases so they can focus on strength or power, speed or tactics, etc. during different times. To do it all at once would be a full-time job and most people would burn out pretty quickly. The simplest way to break up your training is to take it one month at a time or work backwards from a competition date, depending on your goals.
- The 10% rule. Generally you should only increase your overall weekly training volume by a maximum of 10%. This doesn’t mean you will be increasing your workload every week! Every 3-4 weeks it’s a good idea to back off a little and actually decrease your training volume a little bit. You may be surprised at the gains you make by backing off before pushing forward again – I know it seems counter-intuitive but it is actually during the rest period that our bodies respond to our training. Not only are your muscles getting stronger but you are also making enzymes, building new capillaries, enhancing the ability of your nervous system to recruit muscle fibers and all kinds of awesome things that make you a more efficient machine.
- Sleep. Good quality sleep is so important! If you don’t already have a solid sleep routine, it’s time to start one. Some people like to read for a bit while snuggled up under the covers, others like to meditate, do gentle yoga, pray, or write in a journal. Turning off bright lights (like TVs and computers) an hour before going to bed has also been shown to help calm down your brain, helping you fall asleep easier. Consistency is key, so try to do the same thing nightly (or daily, depending on your schedule!)
- Stress reduction. If you are a type-A personality, you may find it hard to relax because there’s always something you should or could be doing. The irony is that sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing you can be doing! Without taking time to relax and unwind, the time that you spend doing everything else won’t be as enjoyable or productive. Stop feeling guilty about taking a break and do something that you like to do, just for fun. Wander through the bookstore for hours, take a hike, have a long-winded conversation with a friend over too much coffee, spend the day in your pajamas and catch up on your favorite TV show, high five people in the street, go jump in puddles with your kids…do something that brings your heart joy. Mind you, for some, this may involve running or surfing or doing 100 burpies on the beach…or all of the above!
Hope you are having a terrific long weekend and resting up for the journey ahead, whatever yours may be!