The STRESS-RECOVERY CONTINUUM and Importance of Rest Days


Emily R Pappas, M.S.

One of the most destructive myths among female athletes is the more you work, the more results you’ll get. Now, while there’s no denying hard work is essential for gaining strength and achieving success, we often forget that we are human.

We need time to rest, recover, and rejuvenate. Giving yourself a break doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it means you’re smart; it means your body will respond better, heal faster, and last longer. This should come as quite a relief, right?


Stressed Out?!

Think of the body as situated on a spectrum with two extremes: stress and recovery. On average, you’ll typically want to be hanging out in the middle. When you practice, lift, go for a run, or play a game, you’re pushing your body toward the STRESS side of the spectrum. Now, remember that stress is not bad. In fact, you need stress in order to adapt and ultimately improve as an athlete.

However, your body prefers being in the middle. So, when you impose a stress on it, it will naturally want to balance that out. The only way you can do that is by allowing your body to enjoy some time on the RECOVERY side of the spectrum.

This is because no adaptation will happen without experiencing both stress and recovery.

So, if you keep training, playing, running, or lifting without giving your body the time it needs to recover, you’ll end up too far down the stress side of the spectrum, creating a serious imbalance that will only worsen overtime.

And this is far too easy to do, because stress is cumulative and it comes in various forms. You’re constantly dealing with stressors: physically at the gym, mentally at school and work, and emotionally in everyday social life. All of this stress adds up, and your body can only handle so much of it before it starts to break down.

Nagging injuries, illness, and extreme fatigue are all indicators that the body is in dire need of recovery.  


The Road to Recovery

When you’re experiencing stress in such extreme ways, you need to increase your body’s ability to recover. This comes down to a few major factors:

1) Optimizing good-quality sleep

2) Increasing your caloric intake

3) Shutting your mind off (with calming activities, massages, time with family and friends, etc.)

4) Enjoying full-on rest days

You can’t deny that there’s nothing quite like getting a good night’s sleep, indulging in a great meal, and enjoying quality down-time with your friends. So, do it. And don’t feel guilty about it.

Because if you’re constantly going hard, day in and day out, with no time off, you will never give your body the chance to adapt and improve; it will always be working in survival mode. This is also the surest way to burnout and breakdown.

Fortunately, you can avoid this scenario by simply taking time to recover and relax—you know you deserve it.