What are you recovering from? When do you need to recover? Whether it is an episode of the shakes, the runs, the downs, or a literal run, recovery is key for optimal future performance. How do you recover? How does the way you recover impact your future performance?

Recovering from immense work stress, your biggest calendar event (race or business), or illness is no simple matter. Sometimes it is a combination of these and too much too soon will mean limited performance. All these elements cause stress. Stress in moderate doses leads to productivity and even success, in excessive amounts though it messes up more than just your hormonal balance and you may go from looking like a carrot to looking like a pear within a year.

You know the week after your most important work event is a complete write-off when it comes to administration or actual productive meetings? That’s because your mind has gone into a state prepared for recovery. If you don’t give it a chance to unwind and process everything going on, you’re limiting your full potential. Not right now, or even in three months, but over years your mind will limit its focus because it’s in survival mode and working on minimum requirements.

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Here are some best ways to recover from sporting events to challenging weeks at work:

Keep moving

Activity at a low intensity stimulates blood flow and realignment of muscle fibers, which means out with the old and in with the new for your blood cells; think of beaten-up furniture being cleaned-up, polished and reupholstered

Spend creative time with yourself

If you want to lie down with your favourite music in the background, sit-down and read a book, write down your thoughts and experiences, or pick up your favourite instrument and play, slide a pencil on your sketchbook, or write a short story; now your mind is distracted

Try something different

Sometimes we stumble upon things that never interested us before but going to an old museum may teach us something new and distract us from the internal struggle; maybe we let people go first through a door because taking a step back and seeing the big picture is more important than getting to it first

Express gratitude to key contributors

The people that made it possible for you to get through the challenges and overcome obstacles that weren’t possible alone – acknowledge their contribution; worst case scenario: they don’t acknowledge your appreciation; best case scenario: you’ve gained a life-long journeyman

Plan for the next one

Now is the time to recover but also to be excited about the future because you’ve achieved something you felt impossible a few months ago! You can still remember 90% of the details now, so you can evaluate the shortfalls best right now and not in six months when you begin the preparations for the next big event; this is the time to get excited and motivated despite a sense of internal deflation, like a popped party balloon

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I accidentally underestimated the need for recovery after the Ultra Trail Cape Town event that happened beginning of December. Clever me decided to go to gym for an easy bike and swim session the following Tuesday, despite barely being able to walk properly. Then, another bike set the next day, and some strength training on the Thursday. I haven’t been fully functional for a couple of days and will be taking the rest of the week off now that I understand physical recovery better. If only our minds limited us when we overdo things like our body does. Last piece of advice listen to your body.

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