Rest and recovery are some of the least-talked about aspects of working out and strength training. Perhaps that is because they are unglamorous, and writers (or athletes) don’t believe people need to be told about resting. After all, anyone can rest, right? It’s just a matter of putting your body down on the bed at night, sleeping 7-8 hours, and that’s that, right? What need is there to devote a paragraph, much less an entire chapter, to the topic of rest?

I used to think so too –  when I was young. Now that I’m at the ripe age of 30, I see and think differently about rest and recovery, and believe they are not talked about enough.

Working out, if you do it properly by challenging and pushing your body, is stressful on your body. I used to think sleeping at night was enough. Now I’m realizing that for the majority of people, it’s nowhere close to enough, and this myth slows down thousands of people from reaching their body fat or strength targets.

First of all, I should state that if you regularly workout leisurely, or if you simply do slow to moderate pace cardio, then the following does not apply to you (and why are you reading this book anyways?).

But if you workout intensely, whether that be weight-training or strenuous cardio or sports, then this topic is immensely relevant. As we get older, our bodies’ ability to recover from stress becomes less and less. Our muscles need more and more time to rest and repair from soreness, pain, and exhaustion. The more worn out our body is, the less likely we will drag ourselves to the gym the next day. To most people this is just part of the process, but missing workouts definitely slows our progress. What can be done?

What most people do not understand is that for optimal results, they must spend almost as much time recovering as they do working out. Proper recovery allows our bodies to workout intensely without taking several days off from the gym due to soreness.

Proper recovery includes full body and deep tissue massages, ice baths, saunas and steam rooms, enough sleep at night, naps if necessary, and even other workouts such as stretching or yoga. All of these activities help your muscles preserve and repair themselves, allowing them to recover faster so that you can continue pushing yourself in the gym.

Consider these activities like maintenance for your body, just like maintenance for a race car. Every several laps a race car will stop and receive treatment that allows it to get back out there functioning at top speed: changing tires, tightening bolts, whatever (I’m not a race car driver, don’t quiz me on the specifics!). The idea is the same for the body. Maintain your body everytime you put it under stress and it will continue performing at high intensity. Neglect the maintenance of your body (rest and recovery) and your body will breakdown eventually, requiring you to spend several days away from the gym or worst, months, or years, if you injure yourself.

So splurge on a massage (once in a while), spend 30 minutes in a steam room, try yoga or stretching. help your body recover.