This article is an overview, not a detailed treatise on rest and recovery. The principles are simple but apply in different ways to different people. Some people need more rest and others need less. While there are overall principles and rules of thumb, it is still an individual matter.
Here are some basic principles of rest and recovery:
- Muscles grow and rebuild at rest rather than during exercise.
- As seniors, you need more rest between exercise sessions if you are doing strenuous resistance exercises. The rule of thumb, or starting point, is 48 to 72 hours ( two to three days) between strenuous exercise periods.
- If you choose to be a performance or master’s athlete, then you will need more rest between exercise sessions. If master’s competition is your goal, work with a trainer who works with master’s athletes. You are dealing with an entirely different exercise and fitness scenario.
- The more vigorous the exercise, the longer the rest and recovery period until you become “acclimated” to the exercises. Different people need different recovery periods based on their own individual needs.
- Let your body rest. When you first start exercising, it will take longer for your body to recover. As you continue your exercises over time, the periods in between exercise sessions can shorten.
- Your body will speak to you and tell you if you need more time to recover. But if you become over-zealous, chances are you won’t notice what your body says – or you won’t listen.
- If you don’t get enough rest or don’t recover long enough, your physical resistance will be affected. Your immune system can temporarily weaken; your resistance to chronic illnesses can decline until your body catches up.
How about Sleep? Sleep is a slightly different story. Your body needs sound sleep to maintain energy. The people who study sleep give us some guidelines, but we tend to disregard them. For example these experts tell us that seniors need between seven and nine or ten hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. But that’s difficult to do as you get older. I don’t know about the ladies, but most of the men I surveyed said that they get up once or twice a night to pee.
These experts also recommend a room in complete darkness and no sound: no night light, no lighted clocks, and no phone chargers. Sure. And complete silence? My wife and I listen to the artificial sound of ocean surf rather than traffic noise and sirens.
The natural human rhythm is to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up at first light. Some of us come close in the Summer during Daylight Savings Time, but for most of the year, the lure of Reality TV and action shows is too much of an attraction for early bedtimes.
Does all this sound deliberately vague? It is. Studies A, C and E say that as seniors, you need less sleep as you age. Studies B,E and F say that you need as much as, if not more sleep than your younger counterparts. What’s the correct answer? It’s whatever works best for you. Test and listen to what your body tells you. Then keep doing it.
In fact, if this entire nine part series has sounded a bit vague it has been deliberately written that way. There are simply too many contradictory studies and too many differing opinions on each of the topics in this series, to be able to provide specific “one size fits all” rules. We are all responsible for listening to, understanding, and then acting on the feedback we get from our bodies. Each person is different and while I would like to be able to be more specific, the solution to your health, fitness and personal energy situation is within you: your judgment, your ability to be reasonable and honest with yourself.
You know what you shouldn’t eat. You know you should exercise and move your body. And you know how much sleep works for you. So maybe now is the time to do the right thing, take positive action, self-actualize, and Come Alive fully – Now!
And as for rest, recovery and sleep? You’re a senior . . . You’re allowed to nap. Thanks for reading.