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How to Prioritize Rest and Recovery

About a week ago, I was offered the opportunity to start doing 1-1 coaching with the head coach at my box. He has a fantastic style that I appreciate — he’s extremely observant, honest but not judgmental, and perceptive to a tee.

In the first few weeks of training with him, he started giving me some extra workouts to prepare for WODSunset. Each time I looked at his prescribed workouts, I just started laughing. It was like staring at a long list of every one of my weaknesses. How did he know? 

Now that I’m continuing to train a lot and for the foreseeable future, I’ve noticed just how much effort I’m starting to put into my recovery. It happened very naturally — well, that is if you don’t count my black-and-blue myofascial release experience. One day, at night, I was halfway into foam rolling and realized I had been working on mobility and recovery in one form or another for about an hour.

How did that happen?

Well, the hard way, of course. I’ve dealt with injuries twice from overtraining, first from running and the second from Crossfit. Injuries are some of the best teachers. They force you to stop and deal with all the things you’re doing wrong, cutting corners on, or trying to forget about. At least, until you start learning from them so you can avoid making the same mistake two or three or four times.

In my Todoist, I have a daily recurring task for “mobility and foam rolling.” As someone who passionately hates having pending notifications on my phone, I actively look forward to being able to check this item off.

Most days, my mobility takes the form of ROMWOD. Other days, it takes the form of a short, personalized yoga flow, depending on how sore I am, how tired I am, and how much I feel like following someone else’s sequence. Most importantly, both options never take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Mobility doesn’t have to take hours upon hours. Regular, consistent practice is enough to make progress and ensures that I’m actively stretching and connecting various parts of my body over the course of a week.

After stretching, I do about 20 to 30 minutes of foam rolling. I’ll be honest, I hate it with a passion. It hurts, it’s boring, and it’s repetitive. Nevertheless, it’s necessary. My physiotherapist recommended starting with 15 minutes per leg (from quads, IT band, and calves), I’ve started reducing it just a bit to maintain the progress that I’ve made and to make it more bearable. I generally warm-up with a smooth foam roller and then switch over to the RumbleRoller, which has been really effective for digging into and releasing my muscles. Personally, I find it more effective to find a knot or nodule and pause on top of it so I can focus on my breath and releasing the tension in that area.

I also have a task set to meditate every single day for at least a few minutes. It may sound unrelated, but part of rest and recovery is managing stress — both the stress from training and stress from daily life, which affects training. Stronger by Science has a really great article on how stress impacts strength gains (“Stress, the Silent Killer of Gains”) and how the more stress your body is under, the less likely it will be able to effectively adapt. Too much stress and your body can no longer effectively leverage the General Adaptation Syndrome. Over time, this leads to overtraining and a loss of strength. Taking just a few minutes to pause and meditate both reduces stress and sets your mind (and body) up to focus more effectively throughout the course of the day, whether it’s in training or at work.

Along the same lines, rest is equally as important as training. Muscles recover outside of the gym or, as I like to think of it, the “gains” come after training, when you’re home, relaxing. Rest can mean both getting an adequate amount of sleep for your body and incorporating longer breaks from training or deloads. For me, I feel best if I sleep about seven or eight hours per night. After giving up caffeine, I’ve found that my sleep is a lot better and more effective, and I’ve felt way better throughout the day because of it.

For the past few months, I’ve had a harder time incorporating deloads since I’ve been working towards more than one competition. Normally, I prefer to deload every four weeks. (Honestly, what’s worked best for me is to coordinate it with my period, which is something I think can be really helpful for other women who train on a cycle like this.) For me, a deload week allows me to pause, listen more closely to my body, and simply give myself a break — physically and mentally. More generally, deloads can give your body a break to reduce the stress of regular training that gets progressively more difficult. It’s more efficient to give yourself a break and then come back, feeling stronger, more healed, and ready for another three to four weeks.

Lastly, I’ve been asking more questions and communicating more, with coaches, with healthcare practitioners, with other athletes, and anyone else who may be able to help me. Since my knee has been wonky, I’ve spoken with my physiotherapist, my coach, some of the other coaches, and other athletes that I follow online for feedback on how to correct it. (Plus, a physical therapist recommendation is on the way as well.) If something hurts, tell someone. If something is unclear, ask someone. It’s only through feedback that you can get better. For me, most injuries have come from poor form. My poor form comes me and me alone, so unless I ask for help, I’m setting myself up for a Sysiphean task.

I also talked a bit more in a YouTube video, since I finally started a channel where my yoga videos can live. If you’re interested, check it out 🙂

 

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