As some of you may know, I have a book coming out this Spring. As I got the final draft to my editor this week, I added a section about rest and recovery. It feels like time and again, I have to beg my clients to put some rest between their workouts. So, I thought you all might want to check out this snippet from the forthcoming Own Your Wellness book.
Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery are a sorely underappreciated piece of the health puzzle. I swear this is the most problematic part of my client’s movement practices. Getting people to let go of the idea that more is better is counterintuitive. I have struggled with it myself over the years and continue to. I constantly have to remind myself that doing more Peloton classes or more core workouts doesn’t help me look lean and toned, but it can make me gain weight and stay soft. I know, I know, this doesn’t sound right, but let me tell you, sometimes doing less is precisely what the doctor ordered.
I have two types of clients that fall prey to the “more is more” mentality and do themselves a disservice: men, like all of them (sorry, but it’s true), and women in their perimenopausal and menopausal years. While both groups struggle with different health challenges and goals, they seem to suffer from the same mentality: I guess what I did when I was younger isn’t enough anymore; I need to do more.” Sadly, they pack on more pounds and lose, not gain, muscle tone. But why? Why does this strategy backfire every time?
Well, that’s because the magic is in the rest. When your muscles, joints, cardiovascular system, and brain recover fully, they come back stronger. Conversely, when you pound the pavement daily, do the same weight routine, or sacrifice sleep for another morning run, you break yourself down. Chronic exercisers often end up with nagging injuries, blood sugar dysregulation, sleep disturbances, and a whole host of issues related to the long-term stress that overtraining causes. In fact, when you neglect rest and recovery, your workouts go from being a hormetic (good) stressor to becoming yet another strain on your body, mind, and poor overworked adrenal glands.
So, what is the right balance of rest and work? This actually doesn’t have to be complicated. The basic idea is that if you move one way one day, that movement and the muscles involved with it need a day off, sometimes two. It’s literally that simple. You know that feeling of muscle soreness the day after a good workout? That is the result of breaking down the muscle tissue. When you nourish yourself with sufficient protein to rebuild those muscles, you see them tone up and even grow. However, if you return to working out the same muscles the next day and break them down again, you never get time to recover. If you’ve ever heard the term “catabolic,” this is what it’s referring to. You are putting your body into a state of breaking down, not building up.
Instead, you want to aim for being “anabolic.” There’s a reason you just thought of steroids and bodybuilders when you read that word. Anabolic means you are building up and growing. Back in my fleeting stint in figure competition, it was drilled into me to put at least 48 hours in between training specific muscle groups. I would train one area, say my back muscles, to complete fatigue and intense ensuing soreness. Then, the next day, I would train my chest muscles. Then, core and legs. And then rotate through them throughout the week. That way, I always allowed those micro tears in the muscle to repair and grow. The result was about 17 pounds of solid muscle in just a few months. You can think of recovery as Miracle-Gro for your body.
You might think this doesn’t apply to you since putting on muscle isn’t one of your goals. But if you’re trying to avoid injury, increase your energy, build your stamina, or improve your health in any way, rest and recovery are still critical to your movement practice. Even if you are walking along trails every day, you need to find a way to vary your movements from day to day so that you’re not just moving in that same sagittal (straight ahead) plane all the time. Maybe work in a swim or yoga a few times per week. Regardless of your goals, please work in time to recover.
I hope you enjoyed this small snippet of what you can expect from Own Your Wellness, which will be available this Spring from Forefront Books. Stay tuned for how to make your pre-order.