I always thought that training at 100% all the time meant better results, but that’s not always the case. Having always been a ‘go hard or go home’ individual, slowing down and resting was never something I liked to do.
But when I came back to the sport a few years ago after having a year off (from running myself into the ground), I wanted to change my approach and train smarter. This meant building rest and recovery periods into my training schedule to ensure longevity and consistency in this sport. It should come as no surprise that incorporating appropriate rest resulted in better performance.
I think the aspect of rest and recovery is often overlooked by some people (including myself sometimes) but having practiced this more regularly, I have come to realise its instrumental importance in staying on track and improving one’s performance over time.
I tried a few things, and they seemed to work. But everyone is different, and the only way to know what suits your body is by trial and error – that’s my opinion anyway. Here are some rest and recovery activities that I’ve implemented in my programme.
This should be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t get enough sleep, especially if those people are training and working full-time. We’re busy people, and we lead busy lives so getting enough shut eye is important. If you’re training, it’s even more important because your body does a great deal of repairing during sleep.
I’m sometimes bad at staying on top of this, usually because I’m lying awake at night thinking about things (like fighting). To combat this, I try and get to bed as early as I can and read a book for half an hour – whatever gets me in the sleepy mood.
Some articles I’ve read suggest sleeping in a very dark room with dark bedding. The darker colours make you feel more sleepy because the ‘sleep hormones’ are produced in the dark. I’ve also read that you shouldn’t have devices like phones and TVs in the room. These tend to keep your brain alert, especially if you’re getting constant notifications from your phone!
Taking a short break from training
I used to think the world would end if I took a night off training. It certainly didn’t, and my body felt better for it. If you’re fatigued beyond belief, and you know you’re not gonna get anything out of training because you can barely move, taking a night off or replacing the session with something light can really help you bounce back and make you feel re-energised.
This kind of follows on from my last point. Active recovery is basically doing a low-impact exercise or activity. It’s a great alternative to regular training if you want to mix things up. Walking, swimming, yoga or going for a light jog are some activities you can do to replace a regular training session. They’re less demanding on your body, but you’re still getting some exercise.
Implementing an official ‘rest day’ into training
Sunday is always rest day for me. It is the day where I do absolutely nothing. Sometimes I rest Saturday and Sunday, which is OK too. On my rest day, I take time out, watch movies, play games, read or go and do something fun. It’s a great way to take the mind off the week’s hectic training schedule, and reset for the week ahead.
Massage and maintenance
Sometimes the lactic acid in my body is too much to handle. When my muscles get so tight that I can’t move, I call on my trusty massage therapist Lana to give me a deep tissue massage. It hurts like hell, but what’s one hour of pain compared to a week of crap performance due to muscle soreness and stiffness.
Other fighters I know of see chiropractors, osteopaths, take ice baths or use more modern methods of recovery like oxygen chambers. My take is if it works, do it!
Eating the right food
When I’m training hard, I eat lots! I mean lots! I’m not talking about buckets of KFC a day (I wish) – I’m talking about healthy food. My body needs the fuel when I’m training hard.
Back in the day, I used to eat lettuce leaves and carrots and expect my body to perform well. It obviously didn’t, and I felt like passing out all the time because I was running on fumes. When you’re in a sport that requires you to be at a certain weight limit, eating the right food and the right amount can be challenging. With that in mind, it’s important to seek the right nutritional advice and guidance so you can eat and train to your max.
When I’m not eating enough I feel crap. It makes sense that you need the right fuel, and enough of it, to perform. Much like a high-performance car, your body needs optimum intake to do well. I like to eat lots of vegetables, some good carbs (kumara / sweet potato, rice, oats), protein (meat, eggs, cottage cheese), and good fats (avocado, nuts) to help fuel my body for training. You might want to discuss with your nutritionist the foods you should eat to help with optimum performance. Overall, it’s important to fuel, and fuel properly!
In my opinion, rest and recovery is just as important as training itself. There are lots of things you can try or even implement in your schedule to assist with getting the right R ‘n R into your regime. Obviously rest and recovery shouldn’t be confused with taking big breaks from training, because the goal here is to remain consistent.
If you have any ideas, or you want to share some of your own tips on rest and recovery, feel free to post them in the comment box below.