Achieve Your Fitness Goals with Rest and Recovery

We chase deadlines, tackle assignments and sprint through the day with coffee in one hand and our phone in the other.  Sure, we’ve got great mobility!

We can rearrange our to-do lists and schedule multiple appointments and meetings into one day.  Sure, we’re flexible!

We are the hustlers, the goal-getters and the over-achievers.  The alarm goes off at 6am and the lights are still on at 11pm.  Not only do we get to the gym every day, but we give every workout our best.  The standards we set for ourselves leave little room for sleep, reading, cooking and time with friends.  Dry shampoo is a staple in our bathroom cabinet and sometimes meal prep consists of a protein shake and Quest bar.

Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?  If the above describes you, it probably feels overwhelming as well.  Constant movement and stress can take a toll on your body.  Combine that with a lack of rest and poor nutrition, and you will likely end up injured, ill, out of work or all three.  The following tips can prevent burnout while helping you achieve goals in work and in life.

Focus on the quality of your sleep, not just the quantity.  Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night.  Yet, even if we’re in bed at 11pm and up at 6am, that doesn’t mean we’re asleep.  We are often checking our phones once we get into bed.  Our minds race, anticipating what tomorrow will bring.  Sometimes we even wake up in the middle of the night, restless and anxious while simultaneously craving the deep sleep our body needs.  Can you relate?  The quality of our sleep is just as important as the quantity.  During sleep, our bodies recover and our hormones stabilize.  If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider using an eye mask and/or ear plugs to ensure the best quality of sleep possible.

How much is your time worth?  If you’re constantly saying yes to assignments and invitations, you may show up lethargic and cranky at the gym.  You might start scheduling more happy hours so you can feel, well, happier.  Every time you commit to something, that’s less time you have for yourself.  Think of that time as “white space.”  White space is that empty, unscheduled time when your mind is open for new ideas, reflection and thoughts.  The revelations you may have during these moments is extremely valuable to your personal and professional life.  So the next time you order another round before going home for dinner, ask yourself what price you’re paying to stay out and what is the reward?  Is it worth it?

Embrace the peaks and valleys.  While we pride ourselves on working hard and putting forth maximum effort, going all out seven days a week is an invitation for injury.  Love running?  Love lifting weights?  Do it!  But mix up your routine so a running workout may consist of sprints twice a week and endurance runs two other days a week.  A strength routine may include heavy weights and low reps one day, and low weight and high reps on another.  As with life, there are ups and downs, ebbs and flows.  Your body will be more stimulated by the variety and you’re less likely to burnout and experience boredom.

Improve your mobility.  Think that occasional stretch you do post workout is enough to prevent muscle soreness and injury?  Is yoga on your never-ending to do list?  While there are benefits to being flexible, it’s also important to consider being mobile.  Even if you’re extremely flexible, you may not have the core strength, balance or coordination to perform the same functional movements as someone with great mobility.  A lack of mobility can severely impair your strength and balance.  Set backs such as these can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. In a perfect world, we would see a trained massage therapist on a regular basis.  However, when we crave convenience as much as we crave an extra hour of sleep, the foam roller is a great way to move waste materials out of your soft tissue.

Fuel your body.  It’s easy to go through the drive through on your way home from work.  It’s difficult to resist the platter of cookies in the office kitchen.  Our food choices are impacted by our schedules, by the people we eat with and by our hormone levels (did you know a lack of sleep actually makes us crave more sugary and fattening foods??).  A lot of times, food is an experience, meant to be enjoyed with good company, in unique locations.  But the primary purpose of food is to fuel our bodies.  Without a nutrient-dense diet, our bodies do not receive the nutrients they need to function.  Your diet should be a healthy balance of carbs, fats and proteins.  Carbs are your brain’s primary source of fuel.  A lack of them leads to irritability and foggy headedness.  Fats help to absorb the vitamins and nutrients you digest.  Our muscles rely on protein to sustain and grow.

By implementing these practices and embracing recovery and rest, your body will be able to function optimally while allowing you to become your best self.

This article was originally featured in Proactive Health Magazine.