Any elite athlete or fighter understands the importance of hard work, consistency and discipline. They fully recognize that your level of success is heavily dependent on the hours spent in the gym, training and preparing both, mind and body for competition. What they also realize, that many athletes don't, is how important getting adequate rest and recovery is. It plays an often overlooked, but extremely crucial role in athletic performance.
Becoming an exceptional athlete is not ALL about "killing it in the gym." It's also about life balance and physical reparation, not just breaking your body down. As part of the building process, there is a rest and rebuilding component that is all too often ignored.
The extra demands you place on your body to perform at the consistently high level that fighting requires has to be balanced with the right kind and right amount of recovery. This regenerative process can take many forms, some strictly beneficial, while others are crucial...irreplaceable, but each can play a part in making you a better athlete.
The most important and non-negotiable aspect is getting an adequate amount of sleep. The proper length and quality of sleep is vital to your health. Cells renew, muscles repair and your central nervous system replenishes itself at night when you rest. Even still, sleep is approached by some people as a luxury that you can do without. WRONG. Serious athletes understand that it is imperative to allow your body to recuperate after and between hard training sessions. A lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly, train at peak performance levels and restore natural reserves. Repairing your physical and mental faculties is most affective when your body is in a state of complete rest. There is no replacement or substitute for a full eight-ten hours of sleep each night. If there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, then prioritize differently, but don't compromise your shut eye.
A nice-to-have reparation technique (as opposed to a have-to-have) is getting a massage. It's not vital, like sleep is, but it can have enormous benefits and provide results you will feel. Sports-specific massage can play a significant role in post-training recovery by relaxing tense muscles, releasing toxins built-up in the lymphatic system and it also aids in the speed of the muscle rebuilding process. On top of that, it just plain feels good, which makes it beneficial for your mental and psychological well-being.
Another muscle-restorative method that reduces the time needed to recover is incorporating the use of compression gear. Researchers with the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that athletes who wore compression tights for forty-eight hours following exercise, recovered at a more rapid pace than those who did not. They discovered that compression clothing created a greater degree of cellular repair, especially when compression garments were worn in direct correlation to the muscles that had been worked. Your body can benefit from a significant reduction in muscle fatigue and recovery with the introduction of compression gear.
(Bonus Tip: In order to keep your significant other from kicking you to the curb, you might consider keeping a second pair of compression tops and shorts to wear after your workouts. Don't use the same pair that you just worked out in. Yeah, I understand this is basic common sense, but there are always those select few athletes who are surprised that other people are turned-off by the stench created from their hand wraps that have never been washed and the gloves that they have worn for three years.)
Sports-specific massage, adequate sleep, using compression gear and giving your body the proper amount of time to heal will potentially magnify the benefits of training. Each of these techniques will help your body bounce back to its physical baseline more quickly.
Overtraining and not allowing your body to rest properly is one thing. Simply allowing it to recover on its own is another. But proactively making rest and recovery a part of a well-calculated workout plan or training routine, is what will further separate you as being a serious athlete, rather than a casual competitor.
If becoming the best you can be is your ultimate goal, then you need to have a well-rounded approach. That means an approach that includes Proper Nutrition, Dedicated Training, Building Ring Intelligence and "yes," Rest and Recovery. Incorporating some downtime in your plans is part of a perfect prescription for making upward progress even when you’re resting.