Take a break

Why rest and recovery is so important in sport..

Rest and recovery are critical for any athlete’s physiological and psychological well-being

Optimal athletic performance requires training at a high level and this can be very strenuous on the body and the mind. For this reason, rest and recovery is an equally or maybe even more essential component of any exercise program. The body needs time to repair, rebuild, and strengthen itself between workouts. Just as the body needs to rejuvenate so does the mind.

Training hard can be your downfall.

Being mentally rested is just as important than being physically rested. The mental challenges in sport is high and more and more athletes and coaches are realizing and addressing this.

“Mental fatigue is a psychobiological state caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity shown to negatively influence physical performance”

There are many factors that can contribute to mental fatigue e.g. over-thinking, anxiety, stress and uncertainty, demanding and long hours of high-performance training, sport and life balance, injury, having to make too many decisions, external expectations, media and sponsorship engagements, travel engagements or staying away from friends and family for extended periods, etc. Mental fatigue causes a decline in cognitive performance and diminished concentration, that can make task appear more difficult to perform.

Research has shown that when we are mentally rested athletes can perform better*.

Does your head get in your way?

Mental rest helps with mental recovery and this helps to stay sharp and focused. It is also important because rest helps to embed and consolidate learning of skills, in our brain.

How can you survive all the mental and physical demands in sport and life?

Sleep – Make sure to follow good sleeping habits for quality sleep. This can include looking at your sleeping environment, how long and when you sleep, activities before sleep etc.

Take you mind off - Make sure to rest your brain and take your mind away from sport and competition. Engage in other activities such as reading a book, watching TV, listening to music, anything enjoyable but not productive.

Self-Talk - Make sure to be aware of your self-talk and start to shift any negative thoughts into more positive thoughts.

Phone a friend – Connect with friends and family on a social level. Sport can take a big junk of your time and spending some social time can rejuvenate you.

Relaxation techniques - Although sleep can help, you may still wake up feeling tired. You can change this by doing meditation, self-hypnosis, mindfulness, imagery or listening to meditative music. Also consider deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation techniques

Bottom line:

Make sure to rest and restore your body or your body will start to slow you down. Remember anything in life works better after a reset can.

Article compiled by Bennie Louw
Life and Executive Coach, Speaker and Sport Mind Coach.

Training Your Mind for Sports Performance – Providing individual and group training for coaches, managers, parents, high level performers and keen amateurs who wish to learn the techniques to improve their mental approach to sport.

Click here to Contact Bennie

*A group of sport psychologists lead by David Eccles at Florida State Uni joined by those from the University of Amsterdam have recently collaborated on a paper looking at ways to help get athletes adequate mental rest.  The paper is in the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action and so behind a paywall but if you have access to an academic library it is available here