Rest and Recovery in Sports

One aspect of sports training that is often overlooked is the importance of rest and recovery time. In a discipline such as fencing, when the season has stretched so much that an athlete can find a competition at any time of year, it is doubly important for our bodies to find some down time. Rest allows the body to heal and reset. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, studies have shown that performance can increase after a period of mental and physical recovery.

Photo by Esther Simpson, shared under Creative Commons license.

Photo by Esther Simpson, shared under Creative Commons license.

Fencing parents take note – the young athlete is at particular risk of overtraining and overuse injuries. The bones in children and teens have not finished growing and are not as strong as those of adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics has put out a nice set of guidelines on this subject here.

A period of rest can also allow more longstanding injuries to heal. This is one of my main reasons for taking a short break from training at this part of the year. Aging athletes take longer to recover than younger ones also. As I creep closer to the Veteran categories for fencing, this also becomes a consideration for me. For a nice summary of tips to help improve recovery in athletes over 35, look at this article.

There is also a mental aspect to overtraining syndrome. Symptoms can include depression, irritability, headaches, insomnia, and a decrease in enthusiasm for the sport. Some athletes may think that they will feel better if they can just train harder, when it is the opposite approach that is needed.

Go get some rest! Photo by Paul Dunleavy, shared under Creative Commons license.

Go get some rest! Photo by Paul Dunleavy, shared under Creative Commons license.

With Summer Nationals over, there is a natural break in the fencing schedule for me. With no particular exercise in the last 4 days, my leg muscles already feel much better. I plan to take at least two weeks off from fencing practice, but will start some light exercise later today. I plan to limit this to easy cardio, light weight training, and yoga and stretching. Next week I hope to get on my bicycle for some cycling in the warm summer weather. Cross training in sports and activities other than your primary discipline can help with recovery.

What do you do for your recovery? Do you schedule it ahead of time or wait until you feel that you need it?


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sportsman1
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 21:18:39

    Your right rest can be a tricky thing. I have to plan ahead or I will never take a break. I hope that some day I will be able to take my rest on a beach somewhere. Until then, I sleep for an extra hour.


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    Jul 13, 2014 @ 05:02:46

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  3. Imarunner2012
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 08:30:43

    As a runner we talk about the importance of rest also. Interesting to hear about rest from a fencing perspcective. Found you via Co-Promote.


  4. Clare
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 14:51:54

    Thanks for commenting, everyone! I’m done resting and I’m ready to start training again. I know it’s tough to take a break from something you love, but that’s part of what helps to keep the passion for it burning, as well.


  5. BarryMcVeigh
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 08:08:03

    Rest is soooo important!! After all this is when gains in fitness actually occur!


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    Jan 07, 2015 @ 06:12:29

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  8. Greg Parry
    Jan 14, 2015 @ 07:35:39

    We all need rest after doing work. Rest help us to recover our body and after that we get ready for doing more work.


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