A Question About Rest and Recovery


As you’ve noticed, I’m on the rest and recovery bandwagon. I’ve written about the topic for the last few weeks. However, I have a serious question about rest and recovery. Is it overrated? Is it always practical?
As I’ve written before, rest and recovery is meant to do a few things. First, it helps get your body back to full strength, which allows for peak performance. Second, it prevents injuries, and third, it lengthens your career. 

However, these things come with trade-offs. When you rest, you help your body and longevity, but you hurt your short-term skill development. While you’re resting, you could be training more and developing more skills. If you over-train and develop lots of skills, you risk injuries and you add more “miles,” or wear and tear on your body. You sacrifice part of your health, “freshness,” and longevity, but in the short-term, you gain more skills. 

So which set of trade-offs is better? My past writing would suggest that emphasizing rest/recovery is better, but if you think about the practical implications, this isn’t always true. Sometimes it is better to over-train, hoping that the gains of skills outweigh the negative effects of over-training. Here are some examples where this could happen. 

For instance, imagine you're a senior college basketball player and you want to be drafted by the NBA in one year. You know you need to improve a lot and have a great senior year to elevate your draft stock. In order to make this much improvement, you need to train a lot and sacrifice time resting. After a year of training very hard, you made great improvements. You drastically improved your shooting percentage and playmaking skills. However, because you over-trained and didn't give yourself enough rest, you were constantly sore. This hurt your performance in games but you compensated for this with your improved skills. Also, you put extra "miles" on your body and developed some minor injuries that increased your chances of future injuries. Despite these negative effects of over-training, you reached your goal of getting drafted by the NBA. 

Is this worth it? In this case, I'd say yes. Because if you would have trained less and rested your body more, you wouldn't have gained enough skills in order to reach your goal of getting drafted. Yes, you would be healthier, but does this matter as much if you don't get drafted and don't play professionally? 

Here is another example to think about. Which is better?
A 20 year professional career in which you greatly emphasize rest and recovery but don't achieve very much.
Or a 10 year professional career in which you over-train but achieve great feats such as championships and MVP's. You also earn max contracts and endorsement deals, but you also retire with health issues such as arthritis in your knees.

Or perhaps a 15 year professional career is best where you balance health/longevity with achievements that can only be obtained by over-training.

These types of situations happen a lot in sports. You have to decide which decision is best for you. Do you sacrifice your long-term health and longevity for short-term gains, or do you sacrifice short-term gains for long-term health and longevity? The right answer depends on many factors. How good are the short-term gains? How much damage will over-training cause to your health? You have to analyze the pros and cons and make the best decision.

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