Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Every professional athlete knows that rest is essential; however, I would argue that learning how to rest, recover well and give your muscles and body time to regenerate appropriately is an art. Those who master it have better chances of succeeding.
Lions rest. No matter how strong you think you are, rest is essential for strength and growth.
From my tennis experience: If I knew how to rest better, I could have been a better tennis player.
My problem was never NOT training hard. My problem was training too much. As I look back at my tennis career, and especially my college tennis years, it is clear that I wasn't smart about dialing my athletic load with what my body was telling me to do. I learned how to push through the pain and keep going no matter what. I took pushing through the pain as something to be proud of, and I considered my ability to block pain and keep going one of my strengths.
When I look back, pushing through pain and keep going was a strength of mine. My body was able to take in large amounts of training volume, something that not many people could keep up with, but every strength also has its downside. The downside of my strength - handling pain well and pushing through it - was not listening to what my body was telling me and overworking. Now looking back, I would say that I was outright stupid!
During my college tennis years, I developed a number of injuries, and the athletic training room, physical therapy, and ibuprofen became part of my daily routine. I always took injuries as something that was stopping me from training, progressing, and becoming better. I never took the time to listen and see that I might be training too much and that my body was telling me it needs to rest more. The bad part about injuries is that they tend to appear at times when one is close to being at your best. I hypothesize that as athletes, we push our bodies to limits and often past limits to create new ones. We look to find new boundaries and work to push the boundary every day just a bit further in aspiration to become better. When you are at your best, you often push just a bit too much, and you overreach the limit - that is when injuries happen most often.
I was not that smart with managing recovery during my athletic career. As I look back, that was definitely a weakness of mine and something I could have been better at. And, I took this weakness with me into my second professional career. As working professionals, we don't have to worry that much about our physical body injuries as we don't push our physical limits. However, thinking critically, being in a centered mindset, leading well, being present, and focusing on what is essential typically determine success in our professional lives. As such, all of these things require a large amount of energy, and in the past, I may not have realized the energy drains that come with it. I would say that I have vastly underestimated the energy needed to perform all of these things well, and I took rest and recovery for granted. Something that is unimportant and something I don't need to worry about anymore. I was wrong, and we all learn as we grow.
I am inviting you to investigate and be aware of:
What are your energy levels?
What drains your energy?
What brings you energy? Where do you find inspiration?
After what activities do you feel rested and refreshed?
Are there specific people or activities that drain your energy levels? If so, how can you protect your boundaries or be more strategic about how much time you give to these people/ activities?
Do you feel energetic? Fantastic! What do you want to put your energy into?
Do you feel energetically depleted? If so, how can you create space to recharge your batteries and get more inspiration?
From my experiments, I have found that I like to monitor my energy levels on a somewhat regular basis. The reason for it is that I can notice energy depletion sooner, and if I create frequent breaks in my schedule and insert the energy recharging things and activities into my schedule on a somewhat regular basis, then I don't have to dig myself from a big energy depletion hole 3 - 4 - 5 months later. I have decided to build in activities that bring me energy and joy into my routine, which puts me into a more balanced state to perform the things I find important. It means being proactive about building in space for rest and recovery instead of being reactive about it. To translate it into an athletic analogy, I am making space for regular stretching, massage, foam rolling, chiropractor, acupuncture, and physical therapy exercises proactively to prevent my injuries from appearing. This way, I can fix my imbalances sooner before they become a bigger problem.
What are the things you want to make part of your life routine?