In this article CMH contributing author and leading expert David Jack shares his amazing insight on God’s design for us to recover better, smarter, and harder.

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Most of us need to be in ‘recovery’, because our fitness is unhealthy.

It’s a big statement. 

And how do I know? 

Because people who don’t formally train or workout hard (their whole lives) still exhibit markers of excellent health. They can (and do) live long and have good indicators of well-being like good blood pressure, sugar levels, heart health, circulation, fertility, happiness, mobility, athleticism, intelligence and creativity. On the other hand, people that work out too much and don’t recover properly almost always get sick, overtrain, become injured, struggle with the mental obsession and eventually, are forced to stop training in order to heal. Strange; fitness that actually steals fitness.

How else do I know?

Because, as people of faith, if we’re seeking to be obedient to God and desire to follow His will for our lives, recovery (rest) is more than a choice, it’s a Godly pattern for OUR good. And it has been since the very beginning of Creation.

“By the 7th day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the 7th day He rested from all His work. Then God Blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because He rested from all the work of creating He had done.” Gen.2: 1-3

The Creator of the universe made rest holy. Not the days He worked (not that they weren’t), but He said the day He rested.

What’s interesting is the sacredness and the holiness of rest, actually begins with the good work. If the work didn’t matter, why did God do it? In other places in the Word, why would God say “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like a well armed man” Proverbs 6: 10-11.

If we back up a few verses, we see God at WORK. And each day God looks at what He has done and says “it is GOOD”. After the 6th day, God looked on all the work He had done and said it was good. And then He rested. He chose to rest. Not to work more. To rest. To appreciate what was done. The work made the rest special. The rest makes the work special…

The GOOD work.

So let’s begin this article on recovery in a place we’d be least likely to look: with the work. If our fitness isn’t done well, with wisdom and the right rhythms for each of us, a different type of recovery is then forced upon us. One we don’t get to choose, time off needed to heal from injury, overuse and/or burnout. When we work smart and bless it with rest, we find a training rhythm that begins to feel right and bears much fruit.

Now if the truth leaves clues, then these would be some fingerprints of healthy fitness work:

  • Taking time off each week – planned
  • Taking more time off every few months – planned
  • Taking breaks when YOU NEED TO – as you go
  • Foundations of good form and a deep base of skills
  • Non-negotiation with pain
  • Rotating patterns, exercises, activities and sports
  • Rep scheme changes
  • Tempo (rep speed) changes
  • Use of different tools, equipment and environments
  • Intensity changes (not all workouts can or should be done at an 8 or above)
  • Warm ups
  • Cool downs
  • Stretching
  • Tissue work
  • Doing less better (Minimum Effective Dosing M.E.D.)
  • Good nutrition and hydration before, during and after training (the training window)
  • Being aware of and respecting your personal needs and rhythms
  • Training for the right reasons – the whys behind your whats

Let’s highlight a few items on the list as examples:

  1. Non-negotiation with pain – I’ve personally failed at this countless times, and seen the same in others by the thousands. Pain is how our brain tries to tell us something is wrong. It’s warning us so we can listen and do something about it. If we don’t, it will. It will shut down muscles, nerves and brain body communication. It will recruit and use other things to protect itself and function, leading to compensations, unhealthy adaptations and injury. Yet we fight on!  We change our foot position, lean a different way, wrap a shoulder, etc.. We’re nuts:) “Hey dude” the guy screams from the sidewalk, your tire’s flat and you’re almost on the rim!” I answer: “Duh! I know. That’s why everyone in the car is on the left side, and I’m not taking any right turns.” This week stop training in pain. Stop worrying about it and what you’ll lose if you don’t. Rest. Recover. Seek help. Let it heal. Once again, do you want to choose recovery, or have it forced upon you? It’s your choice, and God loves you enough to let you make it. Thankfully, He’ll teach you either way.
  2. Doing Less better – I was sharing training and sport stories with a friend Melissa who was a big Division 1 scholarship athlete and she mentioned one coach in the elite phase of her career that did everything differently. They only worked out twice a week. That’s it. It was hard. Focused. Personal. Dedicated. Coach would tell her, you’re not ready to lift this week because your nutrition and your sleep is off, so get let’s that right. And she listened. She “rested”. While most type A, highly wired and competitive minds scream: What?! No lifting? No jumping? No sprinting? No conditioning? How am I gonna get faster? Stronger? Fitter? 

It’s funny. It’s actually the ONLY way. When your nutrition is way off, your body is beat up, you’re tired, you’re worn down, you’re overloaded with stress, recovery/rest (feels like surrender sometimes) is the ONLY way to get fitter. If you’re feeling any of it; worn down, beat up, stressing about getting it (workout) in, take a few days off. And let them go. Divorce your mind and heart from it and lay it down completely. Letting go while holding on isn’t letting go. It isn’t recovery. It’s in-between, and it might be just as bad as hanging on. We shouldn’t be double minded about it. Have faith that recovery works, (it has billions of times) trust the black on the white, and act on it.

Take a minute to review the list again.

  1. Check off the ones that apply to you and your fitness. 
  2. Highlight one you do REALLY well, 
  3. Circle one you want/need to work on.  

Research it. Ask questions. Ask God for help. Ask Him to reveal what He wants you to see and hear. Then ask Him for the courage to do it in your next workout. If you don’t warm up, warm up. If you don’t cool down, cool down. If you’re always benching Monday with 4 sets of 8 reps, try doing 3 sets of 12 reps of dumbbell or cable presses. If you haven’t taken a week off in months, do it. And you’ll really know you need to do something different if your mind trips out thinking about it. “I can’t stop benching!!” There’s no way I can take 10 days off!”

That’s proof fitness might have too much authority in your life and you need to put it back in check. It’s not only recovery for the body, but for the mind and Spirit as well. It’s a return to normal (a definition of recovery) and a regaining possession of something that was lost or stolen (the other definition of recovery) like peace of mind or pain free movement.

Just pick one. Ask God to show you. To reveal the truth to you. To help carry your burden and change the way you train. He will. He answers all prayers that are according to His will and good purposes. And treating your temple with care and wisdom is certainly one of them. 

I wanted to share a little true story to finish the beginning of our ‘Christain Men’s Health’ conversation about recovery:

This wind is steady. It’s blowing in off the ocean in Laguna Beach, CA. There’s a row of palm trees that hang over the cliff’s edge. They’re being blown backward by its pressure. It’s a light wind, but it’s steady. It’s constant in fact. Days go by and I don’t seem to notice a rest from it. Then there’s this moment when the air feels still. I notice those trees. They’re bending backward away from the ocean toward land. Without the wind. And it’s clear, the bend is permanent. 

I look across the street at another row of palm trees, and like most, they’re pretty straight. The trees that are bent, don’t know the difference. They’ve just adapted to the stress and constant pressure of the wind, and now they’ve changed. They’re different because unlike other trees, they don’t get a moment to recover from the constant stimulus of the wind. There’s no rest so they can’t return to their normal, optimal state.  Those palm trees don’t have a chance or a choice to recover. They don’t need more birds, sun, salt water, rain water, roots, leaves, coconuts, or anything else added to fix their problems. They need a break from the wind. They need time to recover. They need addition by subtraction. 

We do too.

Recovery and rest is a God-Given and Ordained gift to us. Not to harm, but to bless us. So we can grow. So we can heal. So He can bless our fitness, work and lives. So He can do MORE with and through us. Where’s your wind blowing in from?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus

We need to become aware of our weariness, (and it’s source) our need for rest, and find it in the ultimate provider of it. Him.

Recovery Discovery (self-reflection):

Are you weary/tired?

Does your body feel healthy and free, not burdened?

On a scale of 1-10 how important is recovery to you?

How many days a week do you rest?

What is the overall quality of your sleep? (1-10, 10 being the best)

What is the overall quality of your nutrition? 1-10

How long have you done the same type of workout?

When was the last time you took 1-2 weeks off?

How often do you warm up before a workout?

How often do you cool down and stretch after a workout?

What rep schemes do you use for strength work? 

How often do you do something fun for activity? Something that feels like play that you don’t want to end (like a game of pick up basketball or a day of surfing great waves)?

I encourage you to take even just ONE thing from the list above and start recovering smarter and harder today.

And I trust it will continue to help you magnify the GOOD in you, God, and others.

Coach David Jack