I am often asked about how to manage rest days.
This is a common theme among those who deal with food disorders, exercise disorders and other mental health issues. Even for athletes who don’t have a clinical disorder, resting can be incredibly tough. To many, resting is akin to giving up… resting can feel like you’re backing out, not trying hard enough, or admitting to weakness. As someone who has been down that rabbit hole, trust me when I say that this is a warped thought process.
The bottom line is: if you don’t rest, you don’t improve. Actually, it’s not just that you don’t improve, but performance will begin to decline. This principle holds true for nearly every pursuit in life, whether or not it is a physical, athletic one.
In terms of sport, there are many demands associated with training. Training taxes all of our body’s systems; the muscular, skeletal, adrenal, neurological, and mental systems are all stressed through the daily process of training. Training chips away at these elements with the end aim being supercompensation – essentially, stimulating the body into adapting and improving to better handle the stress you’re putting it under. However, these improvements are only realized if the body is allowed time, and provided the resources with which, to recover and rebuild.
I recently had a conversation with someone who introduced me to the idea that there is no such thing as overtraining – rather, we succumb to under-recovering. Though this could be a little controversial (and mostly only a difference in wording), it is an interesting perspective. I do believe there is such a thing as overtraining... if you are training at an incredibly high level/volume, then there are only so many hours left in the day to recover. But either way - whether you phrase it as overtraining or under-recovering, the limiting factor is how quickly and thoroughly we can recover and adapt.
Even though we know all of this on an intellectual level, too many athletes still under-recover – especially those that are managing disorders or disordered habits. Truly believing this may take time and experience for a lot of athletes, but the best way to see the benefits is to really make a concerted effort at improving recovery. Recovery isn’t a break from training; it’s actually part of training in itself. In that vein, here is my advice on how to optimize recovery, and maybe make your mind a little more at peace with the idea: