We have ticked off what can only be described as the big guns in the health world- the concept of health, movement and of course nutrition. But there is one more and similar to the others is very “all encompassing”.
Today we are talking recovery- the eternally undervalued and critical component to your health.
When we think of recovery, the mind is drawn to rest- particularly resting sore or fatigued muscle groups after a tough training session. Naturally this is recovery, but merely one aspect of it.
Recovery is as much mind as it is muscle. It is where the body heals and subsequently grows. It is when our mind repairs and prepares for the next days tasks. It is where hormone secretion is balanced.
Without appropriate recovery, no matter how well planned your training program is- by choosing not to prioritize recovery you are driving head first at break neck speeds into a wall.
Sure that may seem a little dramatic.
But the hard reality is that in many cases it just isn’t that far from the truth. This doesn’t mean you need to be spending hours per day in ice baths, sauna’s, stretch classes, yoga and any other relaxing activity you can get into.
What it does mean is simple- work hard but recover harder.
Imagine you are sitting outside- sitting with a group of friends, talking well into the middle of the night and you’re freezing. You don’t want to miss anything- super case of FOMO- I get it.
But you need to warm up.
You circle around the yard collecting some fire wood and kindling, you start the fire up and instantly feel the warmth. As the wood burns away you top it up and are rewarded with more heat. This continues well into the night but eventually you run out of wood.
With nothing left to burn the fire eventually burns out.
Sure it’s long winded, but imagine the fire is your energy output and the firewood is your recovery. The more preparation you put into gathering firewood the longer your fire burns.
The more time you spend eating well, prioritising sleep, hydrating and managing stress the more output you can provide, with output being the energy you put into work, relationships, training and your general health.
Recovery really is the forgotten aspect of health, and much like health in general is rarely given much consideration until recovery is the only option- be it through sickness, injury or literally working yourself into a hole you can’t escape with more work alone.
You see your body has this really cool stress response system called your “Fight or Flight” response. Walking down the street late at night and a group of shady looking people are lurking in your path and before you make a conscious decision your body has started shuttling blood away from organs to your extremities, adrenaline is surging, pupils dilate and you are ready to fight or leg it.
Turns out they are a bunch of labourers finishing up a job, you walk past and immediately calm down- back to your rest and digest and stress hormones lower down.
At least that is what is meant to happen. Nowadays however we are in this fight or flight response very, very often- to the point we are chronically stressed.
Now don’t get me wrong- stress isn’t a bad thing, nor is it a good thing- essentially it is just a response system that kicks into gear for better or worse in response to a stimulus. It becomes a problem when it is elevated almost permanently.
How often have you observed the resident crazy person in your office that somehow manages to work twelve hour days, trains seven days a week, plays sports in the evening, has a business on the side, doesn’t even take a lunch break and seemingly just gets through the day on coffee and fumes from the time they ate back in 2007.
Every work place has one of these people and sure, they get a lot done initially but over time cracks start to show, and then start to open up- eventually ending up in trouble town with seeeeerrrrrriiiiiiooooouuuus health concerns.
This is something that can be avoided through making sure that you make time for recovery. I get it- we are all busy and we each have a thousand things pulling us in different directions each and every day but it can be simplified, reasonably simply:
- Recognise- take note of your “triggers”, what gets your stress pumping? Is it something that you can manage?
- Prioritize- learn to prioritise your tasks so that you aren’t left at the last second with an important job that needs time that you no longer have. Rank them in order of priority and work your way through them one at a time.
- Organise- Organise your time- there will always be things that “pop up” that throw a pinch of chaos into the mix but managing your available time is a surefire way to stay on top of the tasks you have prioritised for that day/week.
- Optimise- find a strategy that works for you. Whether it is an airtight daily schedule that keeps you accountable, a working strategy like the Pomodoro technique
I was desperate to find a word similar to recover that would roll with the “ise” theme but had no luck. Get these four steps in line and make time to recover- remember that can be as simple as sitting on the couch and chatting with the family all the way through to cryogenic chambers.
It is about taking time, time to breathe, be still, rest and keep not only a healthy body, but a healthy mind too.