Jun 30, 2022 | Exercise

Recovery is an important part of everyone’s health, and it is often the first thing that is de-prioritised for any of us who live quite busy lives.

The definition of recovery is a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength; or the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. Recovery is an important part of everyone’s health, and it is often the first thing that is de-prioritised for any of us who live quite busy lives. Think of recovery as the way your body is bouncing back from the stress that it’s being put under on a daily basis.

I am going to break the concept of recovery down into three components:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Relaxation

First is sleep! Now I am certainly of the opinion that sleep is a waste of time. Can you imagine what we could achieve if we didn’t waste a third of our life sleeping!! Unfortunately, science says it’s important, so I’ve learned to accept that and you should too. Our body does SO MUCH while we sleep, such as storing new information in the brain, ‘washing’ the brain of toxic waste, reorganisation of nerve cells, supporting healthy brain function, repairing of cells, tissue growth, releasing of hormones and proteins, restoring of energy, and the process of ‘fat loss’ actually happens while you sleep (through your breath), heaps of cool stuff that seems to make it worthwhile to get a good night’s rest!

All of this is why sleep is so important as part of recovery. If you’re not sleeping well, you need to pay attention as to why. There are a million reasons why we might not get a good night’s sleep, like, we’ve got too much on our mind, we’re too full, we’re too hungry, we don’t feel tired yet, we have to watch another episode of our favourite TV show, we’re worried, we’re sad, we’re angry, we’re lonely, we have more emails to reply to, the room’s too hot, the room’s too cold, we had a late coffee, we had a fight with our spouse, there’s a dog next door which barks all night (and somehow the f***ing owners don’t wake up to it), we’re too busy to get to bed at a reasonable time, we have a partner who snores, we are the partner who snores (maybe we have sleep apnoea), we have a newborn waking us up every 2 hours, we have to get up early, our kids woke us up early, we’re addicted to instagram or are spending all night dreaming about tik tok videos, like I said, a million reasons.

While it is hard to make the time, most of us need to work harder to prioritise our sleep, understanding that if we don’t give our body the sleep it needs to go through all the processes it goes through to recover, we’re going to continue to wake up feeling sluggish and not our best refreshed and energised selves.

  • BUT! If we do some more of these things below, we can benefit our sleep quality considerably:
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule where possible
  • Keep up regular exercise (just not right before bed)
  • Allow a buffer for the time you want to sleep for, to give you time to fall asleep
  • Turn off television and stop looking at devices at least 30mins before you go to sleep, so the blue light doesn’t mess with your senses and feel like it’s not time for sleep yet
  • Ensure it’s not too hot in your bedroom
  • Create a bedtime routine (yes it’s not just for kids!), have a ritual of tasks you go through, like having a warm shower, listening to a soothing meditation, journalling or doing some gentle stretches before you go to bed
  • Limit food, caffeine and alcohol consumption in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Get some sunlight first thing in the morning where possible, this helps to reset your circadian rhythm

Second is nutrition! Food is so important to our recovery, and just in the way our body functions in general. If you are not fuelling your body with the nourishing nutrients it needs, you’re not giving it the best chance to recover from the day’s activities. I will dive much deeper into the specifics for this one in a later blog post, as it hugely warrants it’s own stage! For now I’ll just give a brief overview.

The nutrients from the foods that we eat are absorbed by our cells, so we literally ARE WHAT WE EAT. The saying is true! This means that we need to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies. Some hard and fast rules that society as a whole could probably benefit from is to eat less processed foods and sugar, eat more lean meats, fish, beans and vegetables as good a quality as you can afford, drink mainly water, and cook your own meals where possible. Most of us probably aren’t getting enough protein in our diets either, and because protein is critical for the repairing of our cells and formation of new ones, it’s something we’d generally benefit from increasing.

Third is relaxation! For relaxation, this covers off on a couple of different types of recovery – active and passive, and in my opinion, both are important in a balanced healthy lifestyle. Active recovery involves activity, but at a lower intensity, and passive recovery involves little to no activity and minimal energy expenditure. Both are great ways to give your body a rest from its more intense day to day activities. The type of recovery needed is different for everyone and depends on the type of lifestyle you live.

If you have a very physically demanding job (i.e. a bricklayer or a parent of 3 small children), a really stressful job (i.e. the CEO of a large company in the middle of an acquisition), or you’re an elite athlete training twice a day, the stress on your body (and mental health) is increased, and you will require larger amounts of recovery than someone who is super sedentary at work and has little stressors in their life. There’s no science to the exact amount that you need, but personally I would recommend everyone taking at least an hour out of their week specifically for some sort of passive recovery activity. This is for the average human, so if you fit into one of the high-stress categories above, do more!

Ways to relax:

  • Take a bath
  • Take a nap (not while in the bath)
  • Get a massage (my personal favourite)
  • Meditate
  • Go to a restorative yoga session
  • Go for a walk outside in the fresh air
  • Take a walk with a friend
  • Have a good laugh with friends
  • Get out in nature
  • Go to the beach
  • Chill on the couch
  • Hire a professional cuddler to give you a cuddle (yes this is a thing)

You may be wondering – how do I know if I’ve ‘recovered’? What does that actually look like? This is a great question, and it involves listening to your body. We can tell whether our body has or hasn’t recovered through the use of biofeedback, things like how tired we are, how our mood or patience is, how sore our body is, how well we’re digesting our food, how much energy we have, and how stressed we feel. We get sick when we are constantly on the go, this is our body screaming at us to slow the heck down and give us a rest already, this is when you know you’re not recovering well. When you wake up feeling refreshed, calm and centred, you know you’re at ultimate recovery level.

Everyone goes through stressful times in their life though, for example, you can’t expect to get a solid 8 hour unbroken sleep if you’ve got a newborn baby, so during that time in your life you’ll need to work on other ways to recover. It’s a constant balancing act, and something we always need to be mindful of and in tune with our bodies for. At the end of the day, the better your ability to recover, the better you’ll be able to succeed in whatever you do!