No rest day!” “Sleep is for the weak!” “Work hard, play hard.” For most of our modern times, being successful equalled working harder, sleeping less, sacrificing mental and physical health for monetary rewards, and drinking more & more coffee to get things done. Today, science shows that prioritizing recovery advances your career and training goals more than burning your longevity to the ground in pursuit of your goals.
How is this relevant during our global recovery from an extremely challenging 2020? Well. Good recovery is directly linked to happiness and mental health. That’s right. Rest hard - live significantly… and recover from the COVID-burnout.
So how do we do it the right way? And what is “recovery” anyway?
Sleep Time is Productive Time!
In the world of elite athletics, recovery is the single most important part of any training program. A proper recovery regimen allows for improved performance, permits time for the body to heal itself in preparation for the next training load, and decreases the risk of potential injury. In my previous life as a full time athlete I would ensure I slept at least 8-9 hours each night.. The benefits of recovery allow for the attainment of new goals and personal bests. If recovery is so important for our body, then why do only elite athletes do it? We are all athletes, And the primary reason? 20 to 25% of your body's energy is used by your mind on a daily basis. If we are the next generation of mental workers, innovators, thought leaders, change-makers… then we must treat ourselves as such.
Elite chess players can burn up to 6,000 calories during a tournament (more on this in a moment). Prioritizing recovery is incredibly important: with optimal recovery, you make better quality decisions and have fewer mistakes in quantitative tasks. You prevent burnout, improve memory, and recover faster from setbacks in times of stress. Now more than ever, especially during uncertain times, we need to look upon recovery as an integral part of daily life - even if we are not elite athletes or pro chess players.
So how do we get started with recovering optimally for increased performance?
• Hydration: drinking enough water each day is crucial to regulate essential bodily functions and improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
◦ Men: recommended to drink 3.7 litres of water a day
◦ Women: recommended to drink 2.7 litres of water a day
• Mental Recovery: How do tournament chess players burn 6,000 calories in a day, even when the mind takes up to 25% of the body’s energy? Stress.
◦ One of the best ways to help our bodies ease into recovery and enjoy the plethora of related health benefits, including a massive reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, is through spending time in nature.
◦ Go out for frequent walks in nature, starting with a simple quarter hour (15 minutes) in the middle of the afternoon.
• Sleep: getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night is crucial to rest and recovery and balanced hormone production. While the amount of sleep is important, focus on the quality of sleep to get started:
◦ Exposure to blue light from your electronic devices delays melatonin release, shifts your internal clock, and reduces the amount of psychological and physical repair that you experience during your sleep.
Do a “digital detox:” keeping your electronics away at a half-hour before bed, and at least a half-hour after waking.
Recovery is a vital component of our health and well being, as it enables the body to repair and be fit for all of life’s challenges that lie ahead. This is going to be a critical year for us as a species - are you ready?