Rest and recovery are critical to success and growth, no matter what your sport is. When we’re thinking about rest and recovery, there are a few important aspects to make sure are covered.
There’s a big difference between a rest day where you veg on the couch and eat junk food and a rest day where you nourish your body with healthy (and yummy) food and exercise intentionally at a low intensity. Don’t get us wrong - there’s a time and place for a couch day! It all comes down to knowing your body and what it needs.
Much of the time, even when we feel tempted to have a zero activity rest day, our bodies would benefit from some low-intensity movement. The goal here is to gently move your muscles, allowing lactic acid to move out of them. This helps decrease muscle soreness and stiffness, helping you feel better more quickly and prevent future injury.
Depending on what your sport of choice is, your active rest days will likely differ. Climbers, head out for a walk, or an easy hike or bike ride. Cyclists, check out a yoga class. Obstacle course racers - maybe just lay down, you’ve earned it! Just kidding - an easy walk or a slow yoga class like Yin or Hatha would be great for you, too. Let your body tell you what it needs, which means you’ll have to momentarily quiet the hyper-focused training part of your brain (but don’t worry, not for too long).
What you put in your body on a rest day is equally important as how you move. Remember rest days are about caring for your body, so choose foods that are nourishing and healthy, but also things you enjoy. Steak dinner with potatoes and grilled veggies with a chocolate lava cake for dessert is an awesome rest day meal, and a heck of a lot better for your body than pizza or fast food. Get plenty of fruit - pineapple and raspberries are especially good for recovery, and drink even more water than you normally would! Your body will thank you, and you’ll be ready to get back into training feeling strong and healthy, not tired and bloated.
Speaking of quieting the driven, focused training part of your mind - rest days are equally about letting your mind relax as they are about resting your body.
As athletes, we excel because we’re dedicated to training and competing, but even we need breaks. Giving yourself permission to rest is what allows you to keep progressing without getting burned out or sustaining injuries from overuse of muscles, tendons, etc.
Giving your brain a break can be as simple as sticking with your normal activities but not recording your stats. This seems simple but allowing yourself to focus on the activity itself and not your performance gives your brain time to decompress while your body is still benefiting from the movement.
For climbers, this might be an easy crag day. Choose a grade that’s easy for you and don’t climb anything above that. You’d be surprised at how much fun you can have on easy routes where you’re not at your max all the time! If you normally train alone, invite friends for a fun cycle or run.
Every sport has its own common injuries. In climbing, common injuries are often tendon or pulley-related strains in your hands or overuse injuries in the shoulders, wrists, etc. Cyclists frequently deal with piriformis syndrome or other low back pain, in addition to a variety of common knee and hip issues. OCR often sees soft tissue injuries like ankle sprains and strains, in addition to overuse injuries like tendonitis, bursitis, etc.
The point is - we all have to deal with sports injuries at some point, and it’s often challenging to find a way to keep the uninjured parts of our bodies strong while we recover from injury. One of our favorite all-around use tools at Porta-Hang are the Forbidden Donuts. Earlier this summer we wrote an article about warming up and cooling down with the Donuts, but they’re also very helpful for recovery and rest days, as well.
We won’t make specific recommendations in this article because we aren’t medical professionals, but we can tell you that the Donuts can be a great resource to start building strength in your hands if you’re recovering from a tendon pull or pulley tear. If you’re really looking to expands your training/ recovery options, have a look at our new Olympic Donut Set. We added two rings to our Forbidden Donut set - one easier, and one harder. This is great for recovery because we now have an even softer ring to help you ease back in and build strength without re-injuring anything. Talk to your physio about how best to use them, and happy recovery!