If you’ve ever tried to convince a runner to skip a workout, you know the wrath that can accompany such a suggestion. But sports science has shown over and over again that rest and recovery are important elements of the training cycle.
So what’s the difference between rest and recovery? And when’s the best time to incorporate the two into your schedule?
The Difference Between Rest and Recovery
Rest: Rest is time spent sleeping and not training or exercising. This means letting yourself sleep in or indulging in a nap. You don’t have to sit on the couch and binge watch your favorite show, but you’ll want to keep your heart rate down. You can literally do anything you want, so long as it doesn’t involve working out or running.
Recovery: More commonly referred to as “active recovery,” this technique can help relieve muscle soreness, improve flexibility, and restore energy storage levels. This is where popular methods of cross-training come in. Active recovery should not be a way to avoid rest, but a way to help the body repair itself after hard workouts.
When Do We Incorporate Them?
Rest: The easiest way to tell if you need a rest day is to listen to your body for signs. Practical markers include an elevated resting heart rate because your body is under more stress, poor sleep patterns, dark urine because your body is struggling to stay hydrated, increased irritability, a general feeling of sickness or constant injury.
No matter when you decide to take your rest, it’s essential in order to help your muscles rebuild and recover from training.
Recovery: In the day or two following a workout, movement will help repair the tiny tears you’ve made in your muscle fiber. As long as you’re not feeling any of the markers for a needed rest day, allow yourself to take an active recovery day, which can include cross-training activities or an easy run.
Whatever you choose, make sure you’re doing the activity at about 60 to 70 percent effort. A recovery day isn’t a day to test your fitness or strength. Consider a yoga session, foam rolling, cycling, swimming or a HIIT workout.