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At 62, I’m no athlete, but I just finished my 12th triathlon of the summer. I didn’t mean to – it just sort of happened. At the beginning of June, I moved my office to our family cottage. One Saturday morning, I thought, “I’ll go out for a swim and see how I feel.” The swim felt fantastic, so I thought, “Maybe I’ll do a bike ride.” That went well too, so I thought, “Maybe I’ll finish off with a run.”

Soon I had finished my first sprint triathlon of the summer. For the next couple days, I rested deeply – abstaining from workouts completely. Then from Tuesday to Friday I worked out as normal. By the following Saturday I felt refreshed, so I figured I’d give it another whirl. It felt even better and my time improved. It’s now September and having done 12 triathlons, one Century bike ride (164km) and a perimeter swim around our lake (7.5km) – I think I’ve learned something: if you want to sustain your performance over the long haul, radical recovery is paramount.

The book Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness popularized the equation stress + rest = growth.

Stress your body to the point where the muscular micro-fibers tear.

Radically rest your body so it can go to work repairing the micro-fibers.

This produces performance, strength, power – in short, growth.

If you’re always tired, ask yourself two questions:

  1. “Am I stressing my system enough (relationally, physically, emotionally, intellectually) to challenge it?” Remember, insufficient stress = no growth.
  2. “Am I recovering my system enough for re-growth?” Remember, insufficient recovery = no growth.

If you’ve read this far, it’s the recovery, not the stress that’s your bigger challenge. Here are three radical tips that’ll amp up your recovery.

Give your body 2:1 odds – for two years I’ve been resting my system twice as much as I stress it. The taxation of digesting and processing food is monumental, so I eat between 10:30AM and 6:30PM and allow my system to rest for 16 hours between evening and late morning. This sends a hunger signal to my body which triggers the cells to go looking for food elsewhere. They go into autophagy (lit. self-eating) and consume damaged cell parts - debris like lipids, defective DNA strands, faulty protein chains, viruses and bacteria. Some of this stuff is repaired, some recycled and some thrown out. This regime may sound a bit radical to some of your friends, but is as natural to me as breathing now and has made a huge impact on my well-being.

Take a 4-week (paid) sabbatical – in which your job is to re-tool and your daily work is to read, walk, explore, reflect, tinker, learn, fall back in love, pursue your passions and waste as much time as possible. Some people call these vacations, but research shows that we’ve forgotten how to take vacations and we’ve no clue how to shut off when we’re on one, hence calling it a sabbatical.

Switch sleep badges – it used to be a badge of honor to say, “I only need 4 hours of sleep.” Admitting you were one of those, “I need my 8 hours” people meant you were weak or undisciplined. Researchers agree that taking identity in how little you can sleep is a dance with disaster. Be the one in the conversation who dares to switch the badge of honor and says, “Sleep’s a priority for me. I love to get 8-9 hours” If you’ve already bought into the why of more sleep but need help with the how, check out Ariana Huffington’s Sleep Revolution and Matthew Walker’s 12 Tips For a Good Sleep.

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