Rest is as important as work.
I am painfully reminded of this as I shut down the gym at 9 p.m. some evenings and set the following day's alarm for 4:45 am. Yes, hard work is essential to growth, be it a business or a body that one is developing. However, without enough recovery between bouts of hard work, the quality of that work can begin to suffer.
High level bodybuilders understand this. In fact, the number one reason many suspect a plateau at times is because of "overtraining". Overtraining is a relative term. The same amount of work that for a well-rested, steroid-filled athlete may be very manageable, could be utter overload for the tired, natural athlete. Baseball players, without the illegal advantage of hyper anabolic agents in their system, have to get 8 hours of sleep nightly, and that sleep needs to be high quality. For more on that topic, turn to an older blog post, "Get some Z's, wake up skinny."
Young athletes especially , anxious to pack on muscle or build speed, tend to work out to extreme levels, not vary intensities by day, and not take rest days. When avoiding rest, cortisol levels rise - along with bodyfat - and can leave the athlete burned out and injured before they know it. Just as they finish their offseason period, when they should be peaking for performance, they are left injury prone and tired.
My top 6 guidelines for proper recovery are as follows:
1 - Have an incremental, progressive plan of work that undulates in intensity and volume, allowing times of less neural output.
2 - Have a balanced nutritional plan that provides enough energy (primarily derived from carbohydrates), muscle reinforcement (protein) and water.
3 - Take a multivitamin and a fish oil.
4 - Get at least 8 hours of high quality sleep nightly.
5 - As an athlete, eliminate stressful distractions in the offseason. Recognize that your primary objective is to be fully prepared come your preseason.
6 - Attend to minor injuries immediately, don't try to work through them.
Someone once told me, "You have to take time to sharpen the axe. If not, each hack becomes less and less impactful." This is so true.