Mark was recently asked a few questions on the importance of rest for people training. Here are his answers:
Why is it important to rest?
We all understand that an exercise program is needed to improve our fitness. However we sometimes don’t place as much emphasis on the importance of rest and recovery as part of our training. The rate and quality of recovery should have as much emphasis as the training as it has the potential to improve performance. The aim of recovery is to allow the recovery physiologically and psychologically between workouts so that we can train again at the appropriate level. Physiologically this includes
1) normalization of physiological functions (e.g., blood pressure, cardiac cycle)
2) return to homeostasis (resting cell environment)
3) restoration of energy stores (blood glucose and muscle glycogen)
4) replenishment of cellular energy enzymes (i.e., phosphofructokinase a key enzyme in carbohydrate metabolism).
As rest and recovery can be quite complex and there a number of factors involved. These can include the type of exercise and also outside stressors that we can be exposed to. These can include the intensity of training, nutrition, psychological stress, lifestyle, health and environment. All of these need to be addressed when looking at recovery.
What are the signs that you’re not getting enough rest?
There will be objective and subjective changes which can suggest that someone is not getting enough rest. Initial signs to look out for are fatigue, apathy towards workouts, persistent muscle soreness or joint pain, lack of gains, and lowered immunity. Essentially, it leaves you out of balance.
What are the best things to do on a rest day, that will put you in the best position you can be in physically for when you return to exercise the day after (or whenever)?
There are a number of methods that can be incorporated into your routine which will help enhane recovery. This does again depend on the type of training, length of time between sessions and what is available. However popular methods include:
Massage. Despite little data to show positive effects, it is beneficial in improving psychological aspects of recovery and increased blood flow to help improve clearance of metabolic waste
Sleep. Create a good sleep routine. For example do not watch TV in bed or use the computer. Also avoid caffeine 4 to 5 hours before going to bed too. Keep naps to less than one hour and not too close to bed time
active recovery. This consists of aerobic exercise which is low impact. The idea is to increase blood flow which will help with clearance of lactate and other metabolic waste in the body via increased oxygen delivery.
Stretching. Again this has a more psychological benefit more so than physical and is widely used as a recovery strategy
compression garments. The idea behind this is to improve venous return. The compression reduces the space for swelling to build up and promote muscle stability, therefore reducing muscle soreness.
Nutrition. Replenishment of carbohydrates and protein is key post exercise along with fluids to help optimise muscle-damage repair.
In your work, what percentage of people’s injuries are from them not getting enough rest?
Hard to put a number on it but there is a high percentage of injuries related to not enough rest. You can link most acute and chronic injuries somehow to various degrees of fatigue. Chronic overuse injuries are due to sustained period of overtraining without enough time to recover and allow the body to rest physically and psychologically. Some acute injuries can also be linked to mental fatigue. For example a high percentage of sporting injuries happen towards the end of the game due to mental fatigue, loss of technique and overload of tissues, leading to injuries.
Hope this helps with your training going forwards!