Sports Teach An Important Life Lesson: It's Good To Take A Break

Don’t Ignore Rest and Recovery in Your Workout Regimen

In a culture of so many screens and other digital devices, the coverage of successful athletes is almost always of strenuous, sweaty competition or a behind-the-scenes tour of their rigorous workout routines. It’s no surprise that athletes are hardly ever recorded during their prescribed periods of rest and recovery. It doesn’t make for very compelling footage. However, it also leaves many young athletes in the dark about the importance of rest and recovery in their own training regimens.

Rest and recovery is as important as working out. Really. Time away from the most strenuous level of training allows muscles to adapt to the stress of exercise and grow in response to it. Many young athletes are surprised to learn that their workouts are actually a period of breaking down muscle tissue, and it’s not until the rest and recovery stage that the muscle-building happens. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon can lead to dangerous continual tissue breakdown. This is called overtraining, and it’s bad for your physical and emotional health. Instead, follow these tips:

  • Active recovery is when an athlete goes through a cool-down after intense exercise and follows through with less intense workouts for the next few days. Use easy, gentle movements to improve circulation and move nutrient and waste products throughout the body. Active recovery facilitates the repair of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Try to eat a well-planned snack within 60 minutes after your workout. Recovery is highly influenced by the foods a person eats immediately after a workout. Reach for fresh, whole fruit, a smoothie, or easily digestible high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein plus carbs help your body recover its glycogen stores, the energy within muscles that is used up during exercise.
  • Hydrate well during and after exercise. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body. Get water flowing to direct the flow of waste products out and nutrients in.
  • Sleep well. It’s when your mind and body reorient themselves for the day to come. The right amount of good quality sleep helps properly regulate hormone levels related to stress, muscle recovery, and mood.

Long-term rest and recovery refers to a seasonal training program that builds in days or weeks of time away from strenuous exercise. I recommend these longer breaks, especially between different sports seasons, for young athletes. They benefit from more sleep, more varied pursuits, and the freedom to explore new interests. Young people are rarely told, “Go relax and sleep a little longer, you’ll be stronger in the end.” They say sports is chock full of life lessons, and this is one of the best. It’s good to take a break.

Shari DeLisle, MS, LAT, is a licensed athletic trainer at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano and contracted to work with student athletes and their parents in the Clintonville Public School District and the Shawano School District.