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The Hidden Role of Recovery in Fitness & Work

After periods of intense activity, or sickness, how much recovery time do you allow yourself? During time off the thought of work backlog on our return looms heavy. How many of us rush back, headlong into a huge workload before we are fit enough to be effective?

This article explains the science of recovery and how it boosts your fitness and work performance. We also share practical steps to help you make space and time for recovery. If you’re looking to learn more about wellbeing in the workplace, read our articles on the role of fitness in managing stress at work.

Exercise and Recovery

When we exercise, our body systems step up a gear. Tissues and organs enter overdrive to meet the demand, muscles contract, respiration increases and our heart pumps faster. After exercise, we cool down and stretch to allow tissues to return to a resting state.

Recovery is a key part of any top athletes routine. Likewise, high performers at work must schedule time to take care of themselves. Not giving ourselves a chance to recover is a recipe for disaster.

Fitness Recovery – Why it Matters

Would you place a bet on a prize racehorse if you knew it had been trained relentlessly with no break? Too much exercise and not enough recovery is expecting depleted cells and damaged tissues to repeatedly perform, it results in poor performance and injury.

During exercise muscle fibres tear and cells and tissues become depleted of oxygen and nutrients. Exercise itself triggers repair and rejuvenation, these recovery processes cannot happen while still supporting your body through physical exertion. Any athlete at the top of their game understands the importance of rest days to repair and rebuild. Post recovery, you are better prepared physically and mentally to improve performance.

Work Recovery – For Workplace Wellbeing

The same applies to work, you need to be fully fit to be effective. With relentless pulls on time and attention, it is not surprising that employee wellness suffers. We drive ourselves through a packed schedule believing we are performing, but at what cost? We are less able to immerse ourselves into single tasks until completion or to take time to assess. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explains in his book, Rest – Why you get more done when you work less, ‘Busyness is not a means to accomplishment, but an obstacle to it’. We embrace our busyness in the workplace, but does the fact we are busy mean we are productive? A constant state of busyness leaves us exhausted, demotivated and unfit for purpose.

According to Cal Newport, ‘deep work’ is, ‘Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.’

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Boosting Fitness & Recovery – some practical tips

To drive sustainable change for individuals and organisations, wellbeing needs a holistic approach. Innerfit support corporate wellbeing across three wellbeing pillars: Mindset, movement and nutrition. Recovery and relaxation are not the same things, we encourage an active approach to recovery by taking positive steps towards wellness:

  1. Sleep – The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Long hours, lack of physical exercise, stress and ill health all affect sleep. Write down anything that could be affecting your sleep and work out positive steps towards a solution for each one.
  2. Schedule rest and recovery – If you have taken time off because of ill health, work towards a complete recovery before returning to the workplace. Whilst at work, take breaks, leave your workstation and walk, move around, get fresh air.
  3. Nutrition – Eat a healthy, balanced diet and ensure you have had enough food. Help your mind and body to perform in a healthy way without the need to reach unhealthy snacks.
  4. Try something new – A sport, getting outside more or a social activity, we can all benefit from trying something new. New activity stimulates new neuronal pathways in the brain, lifts the mood and engages us in something purposeful.
  5. Think positively – This doesn’t always come naturally and like with many things, may require training. Teach your brain to seek out positives by noticing them and registering the impact.
  6. Speak to someone – According to Aon’s Benefits & Trends Survey 2019, three-quarters of employers agree that they are responsible for their employees’ wellbeing. Speak to them if you have concerns.

Changing the mentality

Rest isn’t the opposite of work, it works in partnership with it. Recovery time after activity or illness is necessary to enable you to function in a healthy and sustainable way. Remember to go easy on yourself, you are not aiming for perfection, you are aiming for a healthy state of wellbeing that enables you to enjoy work and life.

For further wellbeing advice or support contact Chris and the team at Innerfit. Our workshops and fitness activities are spreading employee and corporate wellbeing across London.

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