Building the Physiological Savings Account part 4

Rest & Recovery

Just make sure you get enough sleep. OK, that’s all, goodnight. Not hardly! Sleep is vital yes, but even if you are sleeping 8-10 hours a day but then going out and over loading your body and nervous system (see there’s that pesky nervous system again) you will likely never truly experience rest. This is individual specific, meaning that each person has a certain level or ability to adapt to the physiological stress they are exposed to. Some can recover in a matter of hours, while others may require several days. Remember how I mentioned that most issues people have physically are related to load, either too much or two little? This is where rest has a vital component to that equation. The rest we provide our bodies will allow for repair, regeneration, and the physical adaptations to occur. Rest does not mean lying flat on your back, cold drink in hand while watching an entire season of the Walking Dead. Sure taking time off to fully rest is helpful and necessary at times. The other type of rest we can utilize is relative rest. This is a way to let adequate recovery to take place without having to shut everything down. Something as simple as an easy bike ride, a mild hike or even stretching and mobility work can be useful.

Another interesting thing about rest & recovery that I’m not sure everyone recognizes is how involved the nervous system is. Recovery is not just about letting muscles heal or your energy stores be replenished, it also a period of time to let the nervous system take a break and get your body back into a state that is most optimal for individual performance. The nervous system is broken up into several groups, one of which is called the autonomic nervous system (it’s not going to get nerdy I promise). This system consists of three major parts: the sympathetic, the parasympathetic, and the enteric nervous system. The sympathetic is our fight or flight system, while the parasympathetic is our rest and digest system. The two systems try and play nice together and keep the body in some state of harmony but the daily stressors we apply to our body can tip the scales and throw these systems out of whack. This is not an athlete specific issue either. Remember, we are all athletes in the sport of life! Stress from life and work, poor eating habits, lack of restorative sleep, and prolonged exposure to physical stress (exercise, sport, and job demands) can all place increased demands on the sympathetic nervous system. If the scale is tipped too far because of elevated levels of physiological and psychological stress can result in the body being in a heightened state of fight or, can elevate stress hormones, and place increased demands on the adrenal system (think, adrenal fatigue or exhaustion). All of which can negatively impact our daily function both at work and at play.

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