Categories: Recover

The best gift you can give yourself: recovery

December 19, 2016

Polar ambassador and personal trainer Lucy Young talks about why recovery and rest are important for progress.

You might be tempted to think that the issue of inadequate rest is a problem for only the infamous gym rat, the enthused every-day runner, or personal trainer (yes, our bodies do become exhausted with so much moving!)…but it is not.

Individuals looking to get in shape as fast as possible – and those who punish themselves at the gym for eating a few too many M&M’s – are also culprits for training too sporadically and not grasping the concept of periodization.

There are some great incentives to reduce the intensity of your training during the Christmas period.

There are some great incentives to reduce the intensity of your training during the Christmas period. However, please be advised that the issue of inadequate rest is not, and I repeat, not a reason to vege out on the couch for 10 days eating Christmas turkey.

Here are my top three reasons for taking it easier during the Christmas period:

#1: More time to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ with the family

Taking a break from training will essentially free up that 1–2 hours you typically spend a day on exercise, and during such a festive time, this means more time with loved ones.

It also means you’ll have more time to do your Christmas shopping, bake that Christmas cake (maybe even enough time to make it sugar-free?), and you’ll have an extra hour to spend decorating your Christmas tree.

#2: You’ll be stronger with more rest. ‘Rest on par with Reps.’

Recovery is all about allowing time for physiological adaptations to training. When you are constantly exercising hard, there is not enough time for optimal training adaptation. That’s why it’s very important to find the right balance between training and recovery. After a strenuous training phase, it is essential to take some days off to allow optimal physiological adaptation to training and become fitter and stronger.

Using this Christmas period to indulge in a sleep-in instead of morning training session can also be a positive if you are a fitness fanatic. This is because sleep is one of the most important aspects of effective recovery. So aim for a good, long nights rest (and get Santa’s milk and cookies out before bed).

#3: You can still train when recovering

Oxymoronic? No.

Having time off from intense workouts is not a licence to do nothing! In fact, active recovery is great when your body is sore and tight because it improves circulation of blood throughout the body.

Having time off from intense workouts is not a licence to do nothing!

When heading out for an active-recovery session, remember to keep your heart rate at about 50–60% of its maximum capacity. Ideally, an active recovery session does not last longer than 30 minutes and you should finish feeling energized, not exhausted.

Stopping before you are tired might sound like an easy thing to do for some, but many athletes would disagree as they have become habitually used to pushing themselves, even train harder when they feel sluggish. Some examples of active-recovery sessions include biking, light jogging, yoga, and swimming.

Take a step back to take two forward

There’s no better time to take a small break from your regular fitness routine than Christmas time, and there’s no better opportunity to analyze your workouts from the year to assess whether or not your fitness has improved since January!

If having to fit in shopping, cooking, and wrapping presents isn’t enough motivation to ease up on your intense workouts, then hopefully the incentives above will help you understand why taking a temporary rest this holiday season is a jolly good idea.