top of page

Don’t Rest, Prepare for the Next Task

“Don’t think of it as rest, think of it as prep.” – Mick Coup

What do you do in between sets? In between rounds? In between training sessions?

Do you rest or do you recover?

Is there a difference?

I believe there is, and I’m not just talking semantics.

Over the weekend I hosted Mick Coup of Core Combatives to teach his Knife Management course. Mick is regarded as one of the foremost instructors in the field of self defence and related fields. With his background as a specialist military operator, he places a high premium on physical fitness.

We’re all too “well ‘ard” to smile……

The opening line of this post was a line he repeated during the very high intensity force on force drills we practiced.

By “force on force” we are talking, full contact, no rules. Wearing a helmet, neck brace and groin protection and having a short window of indeterminate length in which to fight.

It doesn’t get much more intense while remaining controllable and safe.

And participants were expected to repeat these bouts, taking it in turns to be the knife wielder or to add / take away and element.

It was tough going.

In between the bouts Mick would remind the guys, “Don’t think of this as rest, think of this as prep!” In other words, don’t switch off, take control of your recovery so you are ready to go in the shortest time possible.

Mick is former military and has had a very active career. He now teaches self defence from a “worst case first” perspective. Imagine, in a worst case scenario, you gassed and your normal response to this fatigue is to lie on the floor panting. To reach for the water bottle, or a stimulant, or your BCAA’s

If that is your ingrained and only response, are you really actively recovering? Are you ingraining the mindset of always being ready?

I watch kids play, and that’s the mindset we are born with. Yes, they recover in a heartbeat, but look at how they do it. They don’t stop moving, they blow out hard, maybe bend over, but they are looking to get back into whatever game is on asap.

What if it’s not a game though.

What if you’re an athlete? Wouldn’t it be nice to be more recovered than your opponent after each break in play? What if it is a self defence scenario, would you not like to know that no matter how fatigued you think you are, you can still focus the mind and keep moving, recover as you go, and muster the strength to escape or fight on?

This philosophy has been with me since I began training, it’s not unusual for anyone in the traditional, particularly the Japanese Martial Arts to think this way. They call it “Spirit” but you could also say tenacity.

Kyokushin Karate black belt & WG-Fit member Shane, under a waterfall, in January. He has spirit!

In this current era of “extreme” fitness and “sport of fitness” you’d think this is the era of spirit. But that’s not what I’m seeing. I’m not seeing the emphasis on recovery, only on work. And when the work is finished people are posting photos of their “sweat angels” ie the the damp patch they left on the floor as they flopped out at the end of the session.

I do not allow this in my gym.

This is the only acceptable sweat angel, only because of how clear my logo came out! Sent to me by Anders who lives in Denmark

Yes, some lay down, but they’re very soon instructed to get up and move around. One or two take a knee, which is acceptable, but they still get urged to get up and move.


Two reasons.

1: Spirit. Are you willing, mentally willing to do it all again right now? Have you the mental strength, drive, discipline to dig into that dark space and carry on? Can you train your brain to stay sharp and maintain focus despite the fatigue? If I asked you your name, could you answer? If I asked you to write down your name could you? If you were attacked right now, right while you’re gasping, could you fight back?

2: Moving is more efficient for recovering than staying still anyway! If you shake arms and legs, emphasise your exhale (deliberately blow out), maybe even gently bounce your heels off the floor, you will feel the heart rate and breathing come down faster, you will feel the muscles relax and circulation improve. You will be readier, faster.

And if your sport relies on intermittent bouts of hard go with unknown amounts of rest in between, such as a hard rugby game, a combat sports tournament, an MTB Enduro round, or operating in a hostile environment, then the ability to recover on the fly is at least as important as being able to do work.

So breathe OUT hard. Allow the in breath to happen purely by reflex, just try to breathe out, hard, aim to empty the lungs quickly. Then do again, and again. The inbreath will be almost imperceptible, but it’s there. You are essentially hyperventilating, blowing off the carbon dioxide, flooding the system with oxygen. Doing this while rested can be dodgy, you can get light headed, potentially pass out. Doing while in an oxygen debt gets it paid back in double quick time.

It also trains you to fully exhale, strengthening the diaphragm. Something we could all do with.

The shaking and bouncing the heels is secondary to the breathing, but still very useful. This should help loosen out tightness in the muscles which will allow better circulation through them. Maybe not ideal for hypertrophy and getting huge, but for endurance, essential.

At the end of the day, your recovery is Food, Hydration and most importantly, Sleep. If you don’t sleep, recovery is nigh on impossible. If you’re dehydrated, recovery is nigh in impossible. And if you eat crap, recovery is severely compromised.

Other activities such as foam rolling, stretching, sauna’s, ice baths and Chi Gung / Meditation are also great assists to recovery.

Treat recovery as a task in itself.

Be deliberate in your recovery.

Treat it as preparation for the next action, whatever action that may be. Not merely a rest.


Dave Hedges

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page