Rest and recovery is an essential part of any training/life schedule, and something I will admit I struggle to do. This year I have spent 28 weeks on placement, and in between that have completed assignments etc and trained 7 days a week. I can often feel the effects of my hectic life but instead of resting I have an “I’ll push through” attitude. Although this usually is fine, as I am a firm believer in making an effort to train especially on the days you don’t feel like it, but this never say die attitude is taking it’s toll.

I believe it comes from not wanting to get left behind, seeing other people training hard makes me want to train hard, and I often feel paranoid how quickly my fitness will deplete if I do rest. This has stemmed from my personality trait where I am very much driven by the external environment, often seeking recognition and guidance from others but also feeling the responsibility to help the outside world. This leads to a lot of comparison of my own workload and how often I train compared to others, and leaves me questioning “am I doing enough?”. I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately trying to change that outside influence to focus on my self and my goals, its a long road but its worth it. 

One week out from finishing my last placement and jet setting off on my long holiday I came down with a nasty cold/flu. I tried to train through and only took the rest days when I physically needed to nap for several hours a day. Now one day away from going I am still not 100%. This is frustrating but self-inflicted. So in light of me feeling absolutely crap, I am now endeavouring to ensure recovery will now be a large part of my schedule. Here are my tips to help keep you healthy and optimise recovery if you do fall ill:

  1. Eat well. Although not the most insightful tip to start with it is crucial for maintaining health. Ensuring you get a balance intake of the food groups, particularly  vegetables will help provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your immune system healthy.
  2. Exercise regularly but know when to rest. It is hard finding the balance between training and allowing your body to recover. I hate seeing people go from no training to 6-7 sessions a week as I know they will burn out. Build yourself up over time, and let your body adapt gradually. This will facilitate an increase lean muscle mass and better immune function, not to mention the great flow of endorphins. Learn when your body needs rest too. Use designated rest days where you focus on active recovery such as yoga or light swimming. Including recovery sessions such as stretching and foam rolling/massage can aid in recovery of muscles as this promotes blood flow and removal of toxins, and also help you to relax. 
  3. Keep hydrated. This is important when you are well but more so when you are sick. Hydrating when you have a cold helps to loosen the secretions that line your respiratory tract and makes it easier to breath. Hydrating when you are well will also help to maximise performance and stop early onset of fatigue.
  4. Get onto cold and flu remedies early. I wish I hit the remedies early on with this cold and stuck to them. Natural anti-inflammatory and pro-immune buidling products include echinacea, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and zinc. These not only help reduce the effects of cold and flu but including them as part of your regular diet can help boost your immune system. Zinc is easily found in seafood and  meat products, but also in spinach, seeds and nuts, and cacao. Echinacea is a great supplement to take if you find you get sick often or when you feel a cold coming on. Eating a balanced diet will ensure you get a variety of nutrients, thus supplementation isn’t necessary.
  5. Reduce stress levels. Illness and excretion of inflammatory hormones such as cortisol can trigger inflammation and leave you feeling overall crap. By reducing your stress levels you can improve sleep, performance and overall well-being. As a sometimes highly strung person, I turn task focus crazy when I feel there is a lot on my plate. This involve lists or small goals that I write down in some form or another, anyway I can to get it out of my head. Being prepared can also reduce stress, by organising your life just that little bit more such as preparing meals or setting out your workout gear you have one less issue to worry about before getting tasks done. Worrying will never get you anywhere so unless you can do something to change the scenario there is no point investing your energy. Visualise your goals and make small steps to reach them. 

Overall, I just want people to understand what over-doing it can do to the body. My goal for next year is to ensure recovery is a massive part of my training, so I can not only improve my flexibility and mobility but also to aid in performance and overall health.