Updated: Jul 28, 2022
How to get a little R, R and R
I will admit it, for a lot of my adult life I’d beat myself up about the days I didn’t workout. I told myself I was slacking, not working hard enough, or even attribute weight gain (real or perceived) to my missed workout. And while I am making my confessions, I’ve also turned off my share of workout videos before the final stretch because I needed to get on to the next thing. I’ve even fallen into the trap of calorie restriction - before or after workouts. (Sound familiar to any of you?)
Now, at 49, recovery has become just as important as any workout. I am stronger, more stable, and more fit than I have been in maybe 30 years. Both my personal experience and research suggest that recovery strategies are critical to the longevity of our fitness programs.
Recovery is not just a rest day, but a process where we replenish and rejuvenate the body and mind so that we can be adequately prepared for our next session.
Exercise is stress we are intentionally putting to our body. For gains to be made, we have to give the body and mind what it needs to recover from that stress. Fitness recovery really has 3 parts - rest, refueling and regenerating.
I want you to take recovery days seriously so that you can enjoy your workouts today and in the future, without pain and with the joy and sense of accomplishment that can come from each one. Here is a little more about each R and my recommended recovery strategies for women over 40.
Rest is both physical and psychological relaxation. Restorative sleep is good for muscle repair and growth, facilitating the release of anabolic hormones which help us maintain muscle.
In contrast, sleep deprivation can make our cortisol levels rise which puts us in a catabolic or muscle breakdown state. It may also affect our glucose metabolism, decreasing our insulin sensitivity and impairing glycogen replenishment. When it comes to performance, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on nearly every aspect from reaction time, to accuracy, strength and power.
For many of us, sleep begins to change and become more challenging as we move toward and through menopause. It can be frustrating to be trying to get enough sleep and not being able to. If that is you, check out this article on sleep and menopause. If you’re curious how much sleep you might need, see these recommendations from the Sleep Foundations here.
But rest is not just about sleep. It is also about psychological relaxation. This type of relaxation focuses on practices that help bring our body into a relaxation response, one with slower breathing, lower blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. We’re helping our body have a response that is opposite to a stress response.
5 Rest Strategies to Try
Understand your sleep. Devices that help you monitor or track your sleep quality and duration provide you data that can help you improve sleep.
Keep to a schedule and focus on giving yourself the opportunity for enough sleep. I give myself an hour long window for bedtime and waking up that provides an opportunity for 7.5 hours of sleep.
Modify your workouts if needed. If you feel terrible and slept terrible, don’t do the super hard workout - swap it out for something more regenerative like yoga or walking.
Build a stillness practice. Meditation, mindfulness, sitting/being in nature, and breathwork are all examples of psychological relaxation techniques. Just 10 minutes a day can make a difference.
Play. This is so darn hard, but try making 30-60 minutes daily to do your favorite leisure activity, something you do just for your enjoyment. Pleasure reading (reading only for the story), gardening (not “yard work”), listening to music, sewing, painting or even a board game.
Refueling is all about nutrition and hydration - before, during and after the workout. Exercise on its own is a stressor to the body. Feeding and hydrating the body is about giving it what it needs to do handle and recover from the stress. Deprivation is not the answer if we want strength, flexibility and longevity.
4 Refueling Strategies to Try
Prioritize protein. We want to keep and build muscle ladies. That is what is going to help us stay independent, strong, active, mobile and living the lives we want. Target about 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, spread evenly over my meals or snacks.
Feed yourself before and after workouts. Before each workout, eat a meal or snack that has protein and carbohydrates. With 30-40 minutes after your workout, more carbohydrates and protein. Here, the primary focus is on protein 20-40 grams to help muscle repair.
Hydrate. First thing in the morning, have a glass of water. Then drink before, during and after your workouts. Your goal is to drink somewhere between half your body weight in ounces or 64 ounces a day for most of us.
Fiber. Save your high fiber foods for after your workout (especially if you’re doing something longer in duration) but get at least 20 grams of fiber a day, preferably from minimally processed fruit, vegetables, seeds and grains. A happy digestive tract helps everything in our body work better.
Finally, regenerate is about movement based practices or self-care that helps us optimize movement quality - mobility, flexibility and without pain.
Here are 3 regenerative strategies to try:
Start your workout warm up sequences with foam rolling, stretching, focused strengthening and a few exercises that help your body integrate movements effectively and finish your workouts with flexibility and mobility movements. (These pre and post workout sequences don’t have to be long, they just need to focus on the areas your body needs. Through a series of posture, movement and mobility assessments, I can help you create personalized warm-up and cool down sequences focused on what your body needs. Schedule a free consultation to find out more.)
Cool it down. Women’s bodies are different than men’s in that we push more of the blood to our skin to help with cooling. That diverts it from the muscles where we want to have recovery and repair occurring. So post workout, try a cool drink, cool shower, or cool the back of your neck with a moist towel.
Make 1-2 of your weekly workouts low intensity. Yoga, balance work, mobility programs or even a walk to loosen up are great examples of low intensity workouts.
As always, I encourage you to start small, picking only 1 strategy at a time so that each can become a consistent habit. (#smallstepsmakebigchanges)
Recovery and workouts are a little like yin and yang. When we have both in balance, our body feels in harmony. When our body is in harmony, we can move in the world the way we want to, live the life we desire, and say yes to the opportunities that inspire us.
Thanks for being here! Take care of yourself!
I am a strength and balance coach for women who want to live a healthy, well-rounded life right now and for years to come. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.