Optimal Recovery for Optimal Performance – Part II
Today’s post follows up on Optimal Recovery for Optimal Performance – Part I. While you can’t achieve optimal recovery without the foundation of what I discussed in Part I, today you’ll learn some strategies for enhancing that recovery by taking a look at what activities mesh with your personality to lead to optimal recovery.
If you want to perform well in the gym, in your sport, at work, or just in daily life then you need to focus on recovery. Without it you will constantly feel worn down and stressed. Read on to find out more about how you can optimize your recovery:
Have you ever felt like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you need to do? Have you ever felt like you needed to skip out on sleep or eating so you could get everything done? Have you ever felt worn down from the stress of the day? If so, you’re not alone.
However, it’s a mistake to think that rest and recovery aren’t important.
Often, we use caffeine to cover up a lack of sleep, or sheer willpower to continue working without breaks. While this may work for a while, eventually a lack of true recovery will catch up to you and your body will break down.
Thinking that you need to skip out on rest and recovery in order to get everything done in a day is backwards. What really leads to increased energy, productivity, and focus is quality rest and recovery.
So, if you want to avoid breaking down, don’t take shortcuts to boost your energy levels. Instead, focus on optimal recovery and that will boost your performance in every area of life. Whether you want to perform better at work, in the gym, in a sport, or any other category, increasing your focus on recovery will give you the necessary energy.
In part I of “Optimal Recovery for Optimal Performance” I wrote about four factors of recovery that are essential if you want to achieve optimal performance. Getting enough sleep, consuming quality nutrition, staying hydrated, and balancing your work to rest ratio are all necessary for optimal recovery. These form the base of the recovery pyramid. You’ll never achieve optimal recovery without them.
But once these four are in place, you can begin to build on top of them by looking at other things that can help improve recovery. One of the best ways to do this is to take a look at how your personality dictates your optimal recovery strategy.
Your Personality and Optimal Recovery
There are many factors that make up your unique personality, but among these factors, where you lie on the introversion-extroversion scale is of utmost importance when it comes to recovery.
I was first turned on to the introvert-extrovert discussion when I read Susan Cain’s influential book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
While I won’t spend a great deal of time discussing the personality differences between introverts and extroverts, it’s important that I define these two terms and help you understand why there’s an important distinction to be made between the two when talking about recovery.
First of all, introverts aren’t simply shy people and extroverts aren’t simply outgoing people. Although this is often how it’s perceived, in reality introversion and extroversion have a lot more to do with where we draw our energy from and how we recharge our brains.
In other words, the main difference between introverts and extroverts lies in the amount of stimulation that’s craved to achieve optimal levels of arousal.
On the one hand, introverts are those who recharge by spending time alone, and they lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds. On the other hand, extroverts are those who gain energy from other people and feel tired out when they spend too much time alone.
So, extroverts recharge by being social, and introverts recharge by spending time alone, inside their own heads. Perhaps these two quotes display how introverts and extroverts best derive their energy:
“For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” – Jonathan Rauch via The Atlantic
“When I am among people, I make eye contact, smile, maybe chat if there’s an opportunity (like being stuck in a long grocery store line). As an extrovert, that’s a small ‘ping’ of energy, a little positive moment in the day.” – Rowan Badger via The Badger’s Sett
You can see then that introversion and extroversion have just as much to do with how we balance energy as they do with how we interact with people. For this reason, if you want to optimize recovery it’s important to understand where you lie on the introvert-extrovert scale.
You can view your physical, mental, and emotional state as a rechargeable battery. You’re constantly balancing energy levels as the battery drains and recharges throughout the day. If it drains too low, your performance decreases in whatever you’re doing, and you must spend time recharging.
So, if you’re an introvert who spends all day acting like an extrovert, or an extrovert who spends all day acting like an introvert, your battery will be drained.
For an introvert, the preferred method of recharging may be reading a book, writing, watching a movie, or any number of other solitary activities. These are activities that allow you to spend time inside your own head with less external noise.
On the other hand, an extrovert may best recharge by having a large dinner party, going out with friends, or engaging in conversation with another person. Activities in which there is a lot of external stimulation.
Nobody is firmly planted on one end of the spectrum or the other, a complete introvert or extrovert. But we all lean one way or the other and naturally tend to gravitate toward activities that are best suited for our personalities.
This can be a challenge, though, if you’re an introvert with extroverted friends or family or vice versa. In this case, it’s common to feel pressure to engage in activities that leave you feeling drained.
Introverts, in particular, often face this dilemma. Our society is one which has what Cain refers to as an “extrovert ideal.”
The extrovert ideal refers to today’s society prizing those who have gregarious, outgoing personalities as better than those who are more introverted. Often, these people are viewed as more talented, smarter, and better suited to be leaders. However, as Cain puts it, “There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. I mean, zero.”
If you’re an introvert, as I am, perhaps you’ve also felt the pressure to give up your solitary activities in pursuit of more social activities. This pressure comes from both external and internal sources, as we see what’s happening around us, and tell ourselves a story of how we should be different people than we are right now. But should we?
I think it’s important to say at this point that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being social or being an extrovert, and in fact, it can be a very positive thing. However, social, extroverted activities shouldn’t always be preferred over solitary activities, especially if you’re an introvert.
On the other hand, if you’re an extrovert, understand that it’s important for you to get out and recharge by being social. Your best environment for recharging may be at a party or a social gathering, and that’s OK. But don’t neglect spending time by yourself where deeper thought can take place.
The bottom line is that if you’re constantly feeling pressure to engage in activities that don’t suit your personality, you’ll constantly feel worn down. But, if you allow yourself the time needed to be an extrovert or an introvert – depending on who you are – you’ll give your body the recharging that it needs.
This is something that has helped me understand how to best manage my stress and energy levels. Being decidedly introverted myself, and working at a gym – which is a very social environment – means that I also must spend time by myself to unplug and recharge when I’m not working.
Instead of viewing it as antisocial to stay home and be by myself, or just with my wife, I consider it necessary for my recovery. It‘s essential for me to do this if I want to maintain my energy and not have too much stress.
Of course, I still like to go out and be around friends and family because I’m not actually antisocial. But I understand that doing this will often add more stress and fatigue to my mind and body. I know I’ll have to take the time to recharge later.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the best thing you can do is understand that it’s OK to be who you are; in fact, you must be if you want to achieve optimal recovery. Don’t let pressures from society or other people tell you how you ought to live your life. Rather, you can use an understanding of your personality to better optimize your recovery, and ultimately perform up to your potential.
Constant fatigue and performing below your potential are not things you have to live with. Instead, try optimizing your recovery strategies. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, eating well, staying hydrated, balancing your work to rest ratio, and focusing on recovery activities that fit your personality.
Whatever your desired level of performance is, optimal recovery can help you get there.
And for some parting humor: