Ask any successful athlete what elements have contributed to their performance, and they will undoubtedly include the practice of recovery. And it is a practice, not something that just happens. As a runner in college, for every hour I spent training, I spent 12 hours resting. It’s called rest because, at the end of the day, the time left over is “the rest” of the day. Oh, how English makes sense. And yet even though I have always known how important resting is, it is not until recently that I have learned how to effectively do it.
Just because you are resting does not necessarily mean you are recovering. If rest is the time left at the end of the day, then recovering is the act of using it effectively. As I’m sure we can all attest to, watching television for hours on end doesn’t always amount to an energized or inspiring state of mind. In fact, it usually leads to the opposite. Sleeping all day can have the same backward effect. Rest does not mean recovery.
So what is recovery? Well, before defining it I would like to ask what is it that drives us. What is it that inspires us, motivates us, and impels us to do the work that we do? It may be different for everyone, but whatever it is, to recover means to re-cover what it is that drives us. It means to take time to remind ourselves of where our source comes from. To go over and once again cover the foundation of our actions. For me, it means to take time to think about what I value and how my actions are aligning with those values.
Recovery is active, rest is passive. As an athlete, I ran the fastest after I had recovered a clear sense of what was driving me. As a human, I am the most effective when I know why I am doing what I do. Effective recovery means to remind ourselves of the meaning behind our work, and it can only be done intentionally. Rest means taking care of the tools, recovery means making sure the tools are being used to build the right house.
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