“It’s only the Flu, you can work through it…” That’s the thought pattern of a teammate on my local swim club. Some people think being a good athlete is being someone that pushes through all aches and pains, including illness. This is a common fallacy among amateurs. Even professionals know the importance of proper recovery. If we don’t recover, how are we to achieve our best?

First off, recovery is key in everything we do. Whether someone is an athlete or not, the off days are the ones that boost our abilities. That time off builds those abilities back and stronger. With proper recovery, the mind and body used to repetitive tasks and enable them to perform those functions more efficiently. Think of your body like an assembly line, the better the machine you have to input, the better output you will have.

Recovery is a performance booster not an inhibitor. Too often stubbornness gets in the way of good recovery. I see so many people “push through” thinking it will make them stronger. In reality, they’re slowing progress and sometimes even going backwards, depending on how far over they’ve gone. Why do you think athletes taper before an event? It’s so they have peak output on race/event day. Without the break, mental focus and muscle performance would be far lower. I certainly wouldn’t want to be unmotivated and tired when I want to achieve my best.

Lastly, knowing when to take some time off can be a bit of a juggling act. Different things need different amounts of rest. Here are three indicators of needing recovery, and how much time I take off:

1. If you’re so mentally or physically fatigued that training or whatever your doing makes you nauseous. This is a told tail sign you definitely need a day or two off. Repeat as necessary until the fire comes back to you. 

2. Those weird days that you’re sorta tired, but can still get it done. These days you want to taper down your sets or again, switch up the routine. Maintaining consistency is important, but more finding interesting sets are benefits in themselves. 

3. You’ll work harder with something that’s more fun. Even easy days are less pressure and you’ll be more relaxed. I’ve surprised myself on plenty #3 days that start off easy and end up being a killer workout.

In the end, it’s so important to listen to your mind and body. It’s a delicate balance of work and rest to achieve the best level of performance. The only expectations are the ones you give yourself. It’s good to have peers push you, but knowing when it’s time to stop is the difference between a professional and an amateur. So the next time someone tells you when to “just push through it”, politely smile knowing you’re getting gains by staying relaxed and recovered for the days that count.