Way back in the day, when I first started doing intentional exercise (not just playing sports), it was always on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Why? I have no idea. Because that’s how you do it. Then I learned about rest days. While I understand the concept, forget about it; rest days are for slackers. What we are talking about today are recovery days!
No Rest Days!
There is the other extreme, of course, aka “active rest.” While well-intentioned, running a 5k is not recovery. It’s a workout. Low weight, high reps is also a workout. Stop trying to justify it. If you are adding fatigue to your body, it is not recovery. As hard as it can be to pound into some people’s heads, I’ll say it again: MORE IS NOT BETTER. BETTER IS BETTER.
Recovery Days Are for Recovering
When planning your recovery day, it helps to consider what is going on in your body. Think of your training as causing all kinds of tiny little injuries throughout your body. To heal these injuries, your body goes through a process of inflammation and repair. Obviously, we want to do things that support this process and prepare us for the next training session. This means reducing inflammation and promoting healing.
The first way to do this is with your fuel. Your body needs the building materials to fix and improve where you have been causing damage. I think a lot of people find it easier to eat well on days when they are exercising and harder to eat the right foods on their days off. But you can’t change your car’s oil while you’re driving. It is when you are recovering that all of that high-quality fuel can get put to use. This means quality protein to rebuild tissues and plenty of veggies and fruits to refill glycogen stores and get antioxidants to help the healing process. My favorite anti-inflammatory foods are
- curry powder, and
I have at least two of these just about every day either as seasonings on my recovery meals or in a smoothie.
Another trick to lower inflammation is cold showers. These have been shown to have a number of interesting effects on the body aside from reducing inflammation (like improved breathing and increased resilience against stress), so give it a shot. You can start with a warm shower and crank it to cold for the last minute or so, or suck it up and go cold the whole time.
Before moving on, let’s do a quick recap of our game plan for recovery days. We want to
(1) reduce inflammation and promote healing by using FOOD AS FUEL
(2) practice COMPRESSION and MASSAGE techniques, and
(3) GENTLY INCREASE BLOOD FLOW and MOBILIZE.
And give cold showers a try. It might replace your coffee.