This article has been republished from AIA Vitality-Vlife September 2017

There’s a lot of emphasis on the right way to exercise, so why don’t we talk about the right way to recover?

With so many things competing for our time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the demands of work, family and maintaining our health. But this doesn’t mean that we should neglect the need to refuel and rest.

“I think people look at their training how they look at their finances: they have a training budget and they have to decide where they will spend their training energies,” says National Fitness Manager of Fitness First Australia, Michael Cunico.

“Unfortunately, I think some people believe a ‘work in’ – or a recovery session – isn’t as important as a ‘workout’ where they expend every last ounce of energy. But if you have a look at the best athletes in the world, those people who are at the peak of their physical prowess, they all spend an enormous amount of time preparing for exercise and recovering to ensure they are at their peak.”

Giving your body and your brain time to recuperate is essential for a healthy balance. Here’s why it’s important to incorporate downtime into your routine.

Give it a rest

A good exercise regime is one that allows your body to rest between sessions. Michael says that when it comes to health, one of the biggest mistakes he sees is people assuming that working out more is the best way to keep fit. “Sometimes working out better is better,” he says.

Not allowing your body time to properly recuperate can lead to problems with your sleep, immune system, and overall performance, plus it can make you more susceptible to injury. “There are steps that can be put in place to help the body prepare for the next exercise session,” Michael says. “It’s a combination of adequate preparation for a training session, an appropriate cool down and ongoing maintenance of muscle flexibility and joint mobility.”

“It’s also about consuming the right amount of fluids and nutrition to ensure you can perform your training tasks.”

The amount of time you should spend resting between workouts will depend on the type of exercise that you do. If your workout is the kind that leaves you sore the day after, it’s wise to leave 48 hours for recovery.

Be aware of stressors

Advances in mobile technology mean that Australians are increasingly finding it difficult to leave work at the office; they are contactable 24/7 and often able to work remotely. A focus on work, and a lack of emphasis on recovery, can lead to burnout – a total emotional and physical exhaustion brought on by overwork.

“Recovery can be linked to the amount of stress you place on your body,” Michael says. “What some people don’t realise is that your body can’t really differentiate where stress is coming from, i.e. it doesn’t recognise workout stress as a good form of stress.”

Studies have found that over half of full-time employees in the UK have experienced anxiety or burnout in their current job. Even though the Harvard Business Review has suggested that the fault lies with companies and not individuals, you can still do things to prioritise times of rest. It could be as easy as actually using your annual leave as a holiday – and if a holiday is not possible, making a conscious effort to ‘unplug’ from work.

“We are all bombarded with various stressors throughout our day, and then we decide to have a good hit [of exercise] to de-stress, which may not be the best option,” says Michael. “Many people need a recovery from the other stressors of life, and we’re starting to see this in the rise in popularity of mind-body programs.”

Make space for mental downtime

Ever looked at your diary for the week ahead and realise that you’ve booked yourself solidly every single day and don’t have any time to yourself? Even though hanging out with people is essential to your wellbeing, it’s still important to carve out time for yourself.

Taking a little time to recharge away from friends and family sometimes feels a bit selfish, but it’s the best way to build up your own resilience. Mental downtime, be it from technology or engaging with people face-to-face, has been proven to energise us and make us better equipped to deal with physical and mental challenges. Relaxation techniques like meditation aid our bodies’ recovery times. Doing nothing is a skill in itself, so make sure you give yourself space to practice it.

This article was originally published here <>