The Importance of Rest and Recovery

With age comes wisdom (hopefully).

While those of us on the other side of The Hill might move a little slower now, and our joints and bones might creak and moan when we start to move, we do have one thing going for us – the wisdom that comes with experience. And one thing we learn from that experience is the importance of rest and recovery.

Likely when you were younger you thought to get better fast you needed to constantly be in the gym, pushing yourself, no down time. You had to push through the pain and fatigue, ignoring the signs your body gave you that it was worn down. No room for ‘weakness.’ You likely see it now, with younger lifters living at the gym, going #beastmode. (FYI – Justin Beiber recently tweeted he was going #beastmode at the gym, thereby killing the popular phrase. Rest in peace, #beastmode.)

But after years (okay, decades) of working out, you gain an appreciation for the role R&R plays in keeping you fit. A role that makes it every bit as important as the workout itself. Your workout is only half the battle. Once you’ve torn down all that muscle, you need that rest to repair and rebuild it, otherwise you’re undermining your workout, slowing your progress and putting you at risk of injury.

A good way to stay active but give your muscles a rest is to crosstrain, working different muscles and doing different activities each day so areas of your body can recover while you are tearing down other areas. Don’t be afraid of rest days – complete, relaxing, do nothing, rest days. I am all for active rest, where you might go for a moderate hike on a ‘rest day’ so you are staying active. But, once in a while, don’t be afraid to just give yourself a complete day off. The world won’t end, and your body will thank you for it.

Make sleep a priority. Putting down the remote and going to bed early isn’t a sign of you getting old (necessarily), it’s a sign of intelligence. Your body needs good sleep as much as it needs exercise and vegetables. This is when your body does its most important repair work. Let it do its job.

And if your body is telling you something is wrong . . . stop. A month after last year’s World’s Toughest Mudder race, I was training again and getting into a good rhythm. Workouts were great. Then, out of nowhere, my shoulder began to hurt, bad. It hurt to raise my arm over my head, I had no lifting strength, and pull ups were out of the question. I took a week off, tried again, and still had pain. Rather than go to the doctor (which, yeah, may have been smart), I decided to shut down all movement that had anything to do with the shoulder at all for a full month and let the body do what it had to do. The human body is really good at repairing itself, and sometimes we underestimate it. A month later, I tested it out, and had zero pain. Five months later, the shoulder is as good as its ever been.

To learn more about the benefits of rest and recovery, check out this article.