The most important factor in improving and maintaining performance of any kind is recovery. This includes both physical and mental improvement and maintenance. Ernest Hemingway said that when he was writing, he would continue until he reached a creative peak, then he would stop. He knew that he had stopped at the right point when he sat down the next day to write again and found that his writing was effortless. In between, his mind had processed new images and new situations automatically, both when he was awake and when he was asleep and dreaming.

Rest Improves Athletic Performance
The same principle applies to athletes. Most athletes are driven to work harder than they should to achieve their goals. Therefore, they burn themselves out or injure themselves and never achieve their goals.

If you want to improve your athletic performance, you must control your rest as well as your work. On the other hand, if you rest too much, you will not have done enough work to improve your performance. So to find the right balance between your performance and your recovery, you must observe your accomplishments on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, and determine at which points your performance failed to improve. Those failures are the result of either too much work and not enough recovery, or too little work and too much recovery.

Relaxation Burns Fat
After a serious workout, such as weightlifting, you need to relax your mind as well as your body. We've found that meditation is superb. The body has two nervous systems: the sympathetic, which controls action, and the parasympathetic, which controls recovery from action. The first system uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as energy, which helps one to lift. The second system uses fat as energy, which helps one to recover. Therefore, the more relaxed we are after we exercise, the more fat we burn.

To relax both the body and the mind without the help of other people, such as a masseuse, or complicated, expensive equipment, such as a sauna, one need only practice daily meditation. We have found, after much experimentation, that this works best combined with aroma therapy and meditative music. For these, a bottle of essential oil, such as lavender, and an iPod or CD player are all one needs. We like Jules Massenet's "Thai Meditation," played by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra. When they have used aroma therapy and music for several weeks, our clients not only lose fat and gain muscle, but they also become calmer, more rational, and more pleasant.

R&R Tips for Athletes At-a-Glance
Athletes who remember to rest, recover, and rejuvenate will be healthier than those who push themselves relentlessly. Here, at a glance, are R&R tips to remember:
• Balance rest with work. If you want to improve your performance of any kind, you must control your rest as well as your work.
• Avoid burnout. Like writers, artists, musicians, in fact anyone who works, athletes need to quit training each day before they reach the point of exhaustion.
• Breathe. Remember to inhale before each exercise motion and exhale after.
• Observe your inner being. As you exhale, become aware of where you are in time and space and which parts of your body are in or out of balance.
• Heed the body-mind connection. Massage, hot baths, saunas, steams, and such are some of the many ways to relax your body. But you also need to relax your mind.
• Meditate. Meditation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls recovery from action and burns fat for energy as it does this.
• Inhale relaxing vibes. Aroma therapy, with the aid of essential oils, stimulates both mind and body relaxation.
• Experience mindful music. Calming music helps you to not only lose fat and build muscle, but also to become a more rational and pleasant person.
• Get enough sleep. A restorative sleep requires the right expenditure of energy (exercise) and the right intake of food (proper nutrition).

Author's Bio: 

Aniela and Jerzy Gregorek are founders and head coaches of the UCLA weightlifting team, and own a successful personal coaching and athletic training practice in LA. Aniela is a five-time World Weightlifting Champion who holds six world records, and Jerzy is a four-time World Weightlifting Champion with one world record. They have devoted the last 30 years to researching and designing The Happy Body Program, and now share that program in a new book, "The Happy Body" (www.thehappybody.com).