How Full is Your Recovery Bucket?

How Full is Your Recovery Bucket?

Ever wonder how day-to-day stress impacts your performance? Throughout the day, our bodies need to adapt to our surroundings and recover from stress. Short-term stress like road construction is easy to recover from. Dragging all day because your racing mind wouldn’t let you go to sleep is long term and hard to recover from.

I like to think about stress recovery it this way. We all have a recovery bucket. Throughout the day, we’re either filling or emptying it. Sleep is one of the best ways to fill it. If you have good sleep habits, you’ll start each day with a full or near-full bucket. Intense physical training and day-to-day stress drain your bucket. If you’re consistently filling your bucket this isn’t a problem. (Bucket-filling activities include sleep, good eating habits, downtime/relaxation, meditation.) When we don’t balance filling and emptying we’re much more susceptible to injuring ourselves and overtraining. And we just respond poorly to training in general. (Full bucket=better workouts!)

One bucket per person

Note! We only have one bucket. That’s why what we consistently do outside the gym plays such a big role in how we perform in it. This is also why we sometimes need to decrease our training intensity when we’re under prolonged, elevated stress. Slower progress toward our goals is still progress!

We’ve all had days when we show up at the gym feeling like dirt. Once we get moving, something clicks and we end up rocking it. On other days, we show up at the gym hoping that something will click but it never does. These are the days when most injuries occur. If we fail to adjust our training–try to work hard on a bucket that’s empty–we’re at much higher risk for injury, overtraining and burnout.

Pushing through: a good idea?

When asked how their injury started, so many of my patients start their answers with, “Well, I knew it wasn’t my day but I decided to push through it anyway…” As athletes, we’re dedicated to achieving our goals. However, pushing through fatigue, pain and days our hearts or heads aren’t in the game can do more harm than good. Dedication is important. But so is showing ourselves compassion.

The takeaway

Does all of this mean that every time you have a tough day or a stressful life event you need to take a week off training? Not at all! A good rule of thumb: play the long game. For most of us, fitness is a lifelong pursuit. Don’t push through a terrible workout and risk sitting out for 2-6 weeks of training with an injury. It’s tough to take rest days. The discipline to rest can be the difference between a cycle of recurrent injury and long term-gains and achieving our fitness goals.

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