Should You Rest on Rest Days?
Written by Don Heatrick
It's important to schedule enough rest and recovery in your training programme to avoid injury, illness and overtraining. Most competing fighters train for 6-days a week, resting for one day of the week. But is a rest day best spent doing absolutely nothing at all? Are there low intensity activities that would better aid recovery and regeneration?
There are many recovery methods, but for the purpose of this article I'm talking about active recovery – which is simply low intensity, low volume training designed to improve recovery by promoting the supply of oxygenated blood around the body. Such methods are better than just sitting around and doing nothing (assuming your not in a severely overtrained state).
Active recovery sessions are aerobic in nature, which helps speed up recovery and adaptation processes. But here's the thing, we're fighters, and we struggle with 'easy' sessions – they seem like a waste of time. You need to get over this. Think of active recovery sessions as an alternative to doing nothing, so it's still more than you would have been doing. Stick to keeping it light or you'll be wasting the opportunity and doing nothing would've been better!
There are numerous ways to quantify whether a training session is of low, medium or high intensity, but by far the simplest (and within the scope of this article) is the Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) scale. Simply rate how much effort the overall training session demanded between 1 and 10, 1 being very, very easy and 10 being totally exhausting.
Active recovery sessions should have an RPE of no more than 3 or 4 out of 10, and generally not exceed 30-minutes in duration. The best exercises are low impact, such as biking or swimming etc. Keep your heart rate below you anaerobic threshold and work at no more than 60-70% of maximum in any given exercise. Exercises can be either general or Thai boxing specific drills – just make sure you keep a lid on the intensity, play at it, this is a rest day!
Active recovery sessions are also an opportunity to work on specific injury sites or injury prevention. I personally like to use a combination of mobility exercises and soft tissue work (such as foam rolling), as these are easily neglected. I find such sessions especially important during a transition phase following a fight and during times of intense stress (training, competitive or otherwise [mental, emotional, life]).
As part of your recovery strategy, active rest sessions are a powerful ally – but only if conducted at the right intensity. If you can also use this 'downtime' to fill in some gaps in your training programme then you're making great use of time that literally would have been spent doing nothing.
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Don is an ex-pro fighter, Muay Thai and strength & conditioning coach from the UK, with over 25-years experience in combat sports and athletic conditioning. He is passionate about all things that lead to improved fight performance and loves sharing what he's learned (and continues to learn) along the way.
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