Whether you call it over-training, under-recovery, or just stressed out, the human body and mind must rest to perform at its best. It does not matter if you are the toughest on the planet both physically and mentally or completely new to starting a fitness routine, actively pursuing recovery should be part of your training program.
Here is a list of ways to heal, recover, rebuild, de-stress, and come back stronger physically, mentally, even spiritually:
1. Sleep. A good night's sleep is the number one recovery tool we have. Sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control we cannot get a full night's sleep (7-8 hours). If you focus on other ways to recover (below), you can still perform at needed levels even with reduced sleep. But, over time, lack of sleep will win the recovery battle and you will lose.
2. Favorite Location. Many people find relaxation at a favorite place like the ocean, mountains, tree stand or fishing on a lake. Sometimes, just getting away, unplugging our lives from the world, and enjoying life outside can bring the mind, body, and spirit back to normal. Even a quick walk outside during lunch for 15 minutes can be a successful way to "reset" our mind and body for more stressful work of the day.
3. Mindless Activity. Doing a form of manual labor like cooking, house work, yard work, long slow distance run, ruck, or swim can be a good way to "get away" and mix in a little physical activity as well if desired. Sometimes these activities can allow the brain to refocus and develop great ideas where you were previously stuck with a dilemma or problem you could not figure out.
4. Foam Roller and Stretching. Sometimes the body aches or hard living or hard training affect other areas of your life. To help reduce the pains of minor aches and pains, take 15 minutes to warmup and stretch from head to toe, and add in some foam rolling. Adding a yoga class is always a great option if stretching and rolling resonates with you and your body. See related video.
5. Hot Tub, Lax Ball and a Good Book. If you can get into a hot bathtub / hot tub and spend 30 minutes relaxing, reading a book, or just alone with your thoughts, you can help the body heal as well as the mind. Adding a lacrosse ball to extra sore spots while in the tub is a way to take #4 foam rolling option to the next level. See Myofascial Release.
6. Long Bike Ride and Stretch. If you are banged up from running or rucking and need a non-impact option to loosen up, biking is a great option for the legs. Add in some yoga based stretching after a 30+ minute ride. Other options like elliptical, rowing, and swimming can help sore joints and muscles.
7. Dynamic Stretching (Land and Sea). Do all the dynamic stretches you normally do prior to working out or running (butt kickers, leg swings, Frankenstein walks, high knees, side steps, etc.), and then repeat all of them in the pool in chest deep water. Treading water with just your legs, performing aqua-jogging, and moving with full range of motion with your hips and legs can really help if getting burned out from high miles of running from a running cycle progression. See related article.
8. Nutrition and Recovery Supplementation -- There is nothing like eating well to help the body regain the fuel, vitamins, minerals, and general nutrients. You cannot go wrong with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats from fish and nuts, and even supplementing protein powder if you are really burning the candle at both ends. See related article.
9. Hydration and Electrolytes. Being dehydrated can wipe you out completely, as can not having enough electrolytes coming in after a hot and sweaty workout. Adding salts like sodium, potassium, and magnesium as well as antioxidants like beta-carotene, Vitamin C and turmeric can also help the body recover and have anti-inflammatory effects. See related article.
10. Naps A short nap as little as 10-15 minutes can do wonders for improving alertness and general lethargy. However, try a Nappuccino. Yes, adding some caffeine minutes prior to putting your head on a pillow can add to the nap response. Just as the caffeine kicks in, you have finished your 10-15 minutes nap and BAM! You are ready to go.
So regardless of the reason why you are feeling burned out, the mind and body requires recovery. Take a few of these ideas from the top ten list and give them a try. You will see a big difference.
Note: if you ever feel like your sleep is poor, consider taking a sleep study. You may find an alarming number of times you are waking yourself through the night snoring or having vivid dreams. Some sleep studies show people wake themselves hundreds of times in a night's "sleep."
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