Health – the importance of rest & recovery
I’m training for a triathlon and today is a ‘rest day’ in my training schedule. As I’ve been training hard this week, I welcome the break, and my body is relieved too. Rest and recovery is not limited to sports training though, it’s equally important in other parts of our lives.
Modern life can be very busy, as many of us know first-hand. With average UK life expectancy of 81.6 years, we should maybe liken life to a marathon (steady, yet consistent effort over the long term) rather than a sprint!
With balance being a key component of Age Life Balance, I thought it would be interesting to consider rest, recovery and taking time-out.
I’ll start by looking at the importance of rest & recovery, together with some risks of not doing so. I’ll then look at a number of ways in which we can build rest and recovery into our lives.
Importance of rest & recovery
From a sports perspective, building recovery time into training is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.
This is just as important outside of sports training. When our lives often rattle past at 100mph, we need to take the time to rest and recover from various components of our lives, on a regular basis. This will help us to be on form when we need to be, and on top form when it matters most.
This should also help to build up our resilience, as well as motivate and re-energise us.
Risks of not taking time out
There are many risks of not taking time out. At a minimum this could include not performing optimally or to our potential. At the other end of the scale this could include stress, anxiety, burnout, exhaustion, injury and other health issues such as high blood pressure.
It’s surely preferable to incorporate rest and recovery into our lives, rather than crashing out at some future point.
Ways to build rest & recovery into our lives
Get enough sleep
This is an obvious one, and a key one, but I know a number of people who struggle to sleep well. Different people have different sleep requirements, so it’s important to get adequate quality sleep for your needs. Here are 7 Ways to Improve Sleep Quality.
I generally wake-up up at the same time every day (6am) and aim to get an average of 7 hours sleep per night. This seems to be the right amount of sleep for me as I mostly sleep soundly and feel well rested. I regularly suffered from insomnia from childhood to early adulthood, but this seemed to ease when I started work and taking regular exercise. I consciously manage my caffeine intake. I also have a bedtime routine which helps to prepare my mind and body for sleep.
Additionally, another benefit to waking up at set times is that you get to experience how your mood is affected by it. If you find out which wake-up time has the highest correlation to your mood (or happiness), then you can try making it a habit to maximize your happiness. This was analysed in detail in one of the Happiness Essays at Tracking Happiness, in which the author analysed his happiness at various wake-up times over a time interval of 3.5 years.
The author observed that his happiness was significantly higher on days when he woke up between 7 and 8am. Also, having to set an alarm had no negative effect on his happiness, despite popular belief! With that knowledge, he’s now trying to shape his sleep rhythm in such a way that he will eventually be happier. And so can you, if you are willing to actively change shape your own sleeping rhythm!
Break from work
It’s important to establish boundaries and create habits for our work time, including time spent working outside of regular work hours. Unfortunately, electronic devices can make it hard to disconnect, so you might need to employ some discipline and set others’ expectations. It’s also important to take regular breaks at work and to make full use of holiday entitlement.
I limit my working time, where possible, but ensure I’m highly productive during these hours. I buy an extra 5 days of annual leave. I also try to get out for a lunchtime walk or a yoga class at least once a week.
Time away from our nearest and dearest
Taking a break from family and friends can help you appreciate them more, and also allow you to see the world from a different perspective.
I love spending time with my family. However, I also value time away from them, doing my own thing. I find this helps me to appreciate the time I spend with them all the more. Fortunately, I have regular sports training which allows me this opportunity, but sometimes I go for a walk, or even take myself off to another room to create the space I need.
Give yourself a break
We are often bound by duty and guilt. “I have to clean the house”, “I have to collect Charlie from cubs”. “I have to make this cake for the school fayre”.
Sometimes we are truly constrained, but other times this is of our own doing. What have we committed to? What do we feel bound by?
Maybe we don’t need to strive for perfection but being ‘good enough’ is OK. Look for opportunities to build flexibility in.
Try asking yourself some questions: Does the cleaning have to be done right now? What could be delegated or outsourced? Are there opportunities to share lifts with other families? Could you buy a cake for the school fayre, or make something simple?
This is one I’m working on. I’m often running around like a headless chicken, but much of this is my own doing. I outsource and delegate where possible, but I also have a huge tendency to overcommit. As a ‘reliable person’, I then have to follow through. From now on I’m going to place greater value on my time. Each time I’m presented with an option, I’m going to think twice before jumping in.
Do something different
As humans, many of us are creatures of habit. We get contented within our individual ‘comfort zones’ and it can be hard to change things or even be willing to try something a little different.
By experimenting with doing something different with some minor choices, this could open us up for some bigger change experiences e.g. start a new activity, join a new club, even find a new job or career path!
If you always have a takeaway on a Friday night, try cooking your favourite meal or go out instead. If you always bring cheese sandwiches in for lunch, try soup or a salad. If you always watch TV in the evenings, try reading a book.
Regular medical check-ups
Many people dread going to the doctor, dentist, optician and other medical appointments, and so put them off. However regular preventative medical appointments can pay off in the short and long term as early detection can be critical.
In motorsports, regular pitstops support optimum performance. We also take our cars for regular services. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves?
Ensure you are attending regular dental and eye tests as these can provide early warning signs for other health conditions. Visit your GP if you are concerned about anything – don’t put it off!
Our bodies generally put up with a fair amount of abuse in terms of some of the things we eat and drink.
Why not give your body a break from time to time? I’m not suggesting you go full-on tee-total or vegan (but feel free if you’re up for that). However, there are more moderate suggestions: a month off alcohol (e.g. Dry January), not drinking during the week, or Meat-Free Mondays, can help to give your body the well-deserved rest it needs to perform well for you in the longer term.
Go somewhere new and see new scenery. This distance can be very refreshing.
Spend time with different people. Others with different backgrounds, or even those less fortunate than yourself.
A little bit of what you fancy
As I wrote in an earlier article, I cherish going to a spa once a year on my birthday. But it doesn’t need to be so big or so infrequent. A weekly bath with candles. A manicure or pedicure. It could even be to sit quietly for 30 mins with a book!
Ben P Hardy shares his view in his article 6 Things You Need To Recover From Every Day.
Modern life has become so fast-paced that it can be wearing and exhausting. It’s important to take regular time out within (and sometimes from) our lives. While some people may be good at doing this spontaneously, many of us will probably need to intentionally build this in.
Assuming that we’re in this life game for the long term, balance is key – what can you intentionally rest from this week?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.