A girl in my aikido class was talking about her new running workout the other day. Like most newbie exercisers she was super excited about her new training. She was also super ignorant about the two keys to any workout plan: Rest and Recovery.

I’ve known this girl for a while and I know that whatever she does she does all out. That all of nothing attitude is one of her best qualities. It’s also one of her worst because I knew that she was probably just diving in full speed and tackling this new workout with very limited knowledge about basics like nutrition, let alone any knowledge of rest and recovery – the two most important parts of any workout routine.

When I asked her what she was doing for recovery she looked at me like I was crazy. When I told her to drink chocolate milk, she couldn’t believe it. “Isn’t that bad for you?” she asked. I reminded her that she needs to refuel those muscles she’s been working so hard and quickly explained the basic research that supports chocolate milk for recovery – especially from high endurance activities like running.

Then I asked if she was resting. Again, she looked at me like I was crazy. Again I explained the importance of taking care of the muscles she was working so hard. “They need rest to recover,” I told her. “You’re breaking them down. You need to give them a chance to rebuild.”

I was telling this story to my husband the other day when we were climbing our training hill. We were both tired – maybe even a little flu-like – and should have taken the day off. As we decided to cut the hike short and head home, I returned to my story about rest and how important it is to training. He grew quiet for a moment then went on to compare it to music.

“It’s like in music. The ‘rest’ (silence) is just as important as the notes around it. One ‘plays’ the rests just as one plays the notes – in order to have rhythms and phrases. Without rests, what would be music is just fatiguing noise.”

And that hike really was “just fatiguing noise.” We had been running hard – in training and in work and were long overdue for a rest. It’s funny how easy it is to overlook the importance of rest and recovery – even for people who know better. The thing is, just like the silence in a piece of music, rest and recovery time are often the parts that determine how strong any given workout really is.

How do you know when it’s time to rest and recover? Please share the cues that let you know it’s time to ease up in the comments section below.

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