Athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike love to shout from the rooftops about “gains”, PRs (personal records), and 1RMs (one repetition maximum). However, few internet memes preach about “all the sleep, rest, and recovery.” Gym goers and athletes typically understand the importance of training, weightlifting, and cardiovascular exercise for optimal performance, but often neglect or overlook the significance of rest and recovery. I hope to shed some light on this often overlooked, but crucial element to optimum performance.
One of the most important benefits of rest and recovery is preventing injury. Inadequate rest can lead to overuse injuries, stress fractures, joint pain, and muscle strains. Weight lifting and resistance training actually breaks down your body’s tissue. Proper food, hydration, and rest allows your body them to grow back stronger. If you are constantly breaking down your body’s tissues without allowing time to properly heal, you are in essence setting yourself up for an injury and less than optimum results from your training program.
Piggybacking on the importance of rest and recovery is sleep. When you enter REM sleep, your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH) increases. HGH is a crucial hormone that aids in the repair and rebuilding of muscles. If one of your fitness goals is to build muscle, neglecting proper quality and amounts of sleep will negatively affect this goal and is counterproductive to your efforts.
There are many strategies, techniques and wellness modalities to facilitate rest and recovery yet the first and most important is optimal sleep. So, today we will conclude with my top tips for achieving optimal sleep.
Practical Tips for Promoting Optimal Sleep
1. ESTABLISHING A SLEEP ROUTINE A sleep routine consists of activities performed consistently to relax the body and prepare the body and mind for sleep. These can include deep breathing, meditation, dimming the lights, shutting off electronics including your phone and TV, and light stretching. The sleep routine typically occurs 60-90 minutes before you go to bed.
2. CONSISTENCY Going to bed at a consistent time each night has proven to increase sleep quality and sleep length.
3. AVOID TRIGGERS Avoiding certain triggers that can either decrease your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are many things that can interrupt a good night’s sleep. Eating too close to bedtime, drinking too much liquid close to bedtime, training to close to bedtime, and not eating enough calories during the day are amongst the culprits that can disrupt your sleep pattern.
4. GET COMFORTABLEThese factors are very individualized. For many, this means a cool, dark, quiet room. A good pillow and a good mattress can make all the difference as well as fresh sheets sprayed with lavender.
5. LIMIT NAPS Long daytime naps or naps timed too close to bedtime can interfere with your nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, studies show short naps of between 10-30 minutes can be energizing and are less likely to disrupt your sleep quality at night.
Hopefully this article has opened your eyes to the importance of rest and recovery and how it benefits your training and overall wellbeing. In the coming months, we will continue our discussion on how to achieve optimal rest and recovery and its benefits to include: foam rolling, active recovery, nutrition and hydration.