Knowing the difference is the first step
As we get older, we need to start reducing the intense exercise days and taking our rest and recovery more seriously.
That doesn't mean that you should not go to the gym every day or exercise every day. You should, as long as you are doing a mixture of more intense days and recovery days.
How do we take rest and recovery more seriously, and what's the difference anyway?
Luckily, it's simple.
Rest is allowing your body to recover from the stress and strain of exercise naturally - such as through good sleep and allowing time between intense exercise.
Recovery is assisting your body to clean out the metabolic waste and speed up the recovery of your muscles, joints, tendons, bones, nervous system etc.
Through my 20 years of exercising regularly, and intensely, at the gym I have worked out that it is better to go fewer times each week, and allow greater rest in between sessions. Specifically, for people over 60 the rest period becomes much more critical.
If you don’t get adequate rest your exercise gains will slow, and even stagnate or go backwards.
In my 50s I would go to the gym 5 times a week. Now, at 72, I go three times. I also do two 5km trail runs twice a week.
I cover a complete range of exercises in my three weekly sessions. Split-training e.g. leg-days, back-days, makes no sense for older people. We need to train our whole body to work as a team every time.
I changed my exercise plan, to optimise rest periods
My week looks like this - it reflects the best way I can build in as much rest as possible, and to fit in with my lifestyle:
This provides reasonable intervals for rest, e.g. 48 hours from Monday's exercise to Wednesday's exercise, 36 hours from Sunday's run to Monday's workout.
Just to reiterate - the reason I now do longer sessions at gym, and go less frequently, is to allow for more extended rest periods.
This is what you should consider when putting together your own exercise schedule.
The other single most crucial part of the Rest component is to ensure that you get adequate sleep. I know that many people my age sleep less than when they were younger. It's often said that older people need less sleep.
I sleep as long as when I was younger.
I aim for 8 hours every night - that's being asleep at 10 pm and up at 6am - in general terms. Without that much sleep, my body does not have enough rest.
Recovery is you augmenting your body's rest
Recovery is the program you follow or the things you do to accelerate the repair of the stress from exercise.
We all must sleep - that is part of the rest component. Recovery is the bonus on top of rest.
The two components of recovery most worth paying attention to are nutrition, and to remain active.
Nutrition means fueling yourself well before and after exercise. Typically, you might have a protein drink after intense exercise, or banana or orange before training.
Nutrition also means making sure that the quality of the food you are eating is helping your body recover as effectively as possible.
Don't come in from the gym and eat a massive plate of low-value carbs - keep a balance of your macronutrients and vary your serving sizes to match your activity level.
You should also exercise - perhaps better called "activity".
Helping your muscles recover, and reducing any soreness, is best done by keeping them working. Old-time coaches used to say "do the same thing lighter".
For example, I try to go for a 3 to 4 km walk every day, and I ride my bike 4km to the coffee shop every day.
If you are doing senior classes at the gym, such as Pilates or balance classes, or Swiss exercise balls, keep doing them. If you play sports or swim, do these as well as part of your Recovery phase.
In my "Recovery" plan these don't count as exercise, they are activities which keep the blood flowing and the joints moving. It's very important to keep moving at a mobility-level or an activity-level in between more intense exercise.
Take a look at your schedule - build in rest and recovery
Plan your more intense exercise schedule to allow as much rest time in between. This may mean, like me, that you do a bit more in each session.
Assist your rest with a recovery plan focused on the best nutrition, and on keeping moving.
If you do this you will notice that your body and muscles feel better more often and faster after exercise, and you have less muscle soreness. You'll also make better progress in meeting your exercise goals.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter