Expert Insight: Carly Thornton’s Guide to Rest and Recovery in a successful training programme

Carly Thornton

UKBFF Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer, Carly Thornton, knows more than most about training hard. Placing 3rd in this year’s British Bodybuilding championship and with her own successful training business – which she runs with her partner Luke Sandoe – Carly is perfectly placed to offer advice on when to push hard in the gym and when to rest and recuperate.

Carly herself spends almost every day of the week in the gym, whether it is working out herself or coaching one of her growing number of clients looking to improve their health and general fitness. But she explains that getting the body of your dreams isn’t as simple as spending hours in the gym endlessly lifting weights.

“Getting in shape is much more complex than most people think and it is important that each individual finds the right balance to achieve their goals. Even the world’s top bodybuilders are endlessly refining and tweaking gym regimes depending on time of year, competition schedule and the shape of their body.

“No one can exercise 24/7 and even if they did, it would result in them losing shape and definition eventually because muscle growth and repair actually takes place during recovery – not during exercise.

“I spend more time in the gym exercising than most, but I wouldn’t be able to do so if I didn’t also pay close attention to other aspects such as nutrition and allocated time for rest and recuperation.”

Carly also suggests that one often overlooked aspect of maintaining a successful exercise regime is the time allocated for sleeping.

“Sleep is extremely important both in aiding recovery and for overall health. From brain function and coordination to energy levels and muscle fatigue, spending time off your feet is often as important as the time you spend on them. If you are not getting enough sleep then you will become run down and you just won’t optimize your recovery.”

Being an elite athlete, competing at an extremely high level in her sport, Carly believes that focusing on this kind of detail can make the difference between the average competitor and a champion.

She says, “I notice a great difference when I’ve had a restless night in bed. My performance in the gym really suffers and my strength significantly decreases, which is frustrating for any athlete looking to progress and improve.”

Sleep has also been shown to play a significant role in avoiding illness, allowing the body to recuperate. To train around competitions, Carly knows that she must have a smooth injury and illness-free run up to an event in order to stand a chance of placing well:

“A week lost with cold or flu a month before a competition can be catastrophic. If it’s one of the big competitions of the year, I could have been working towards it for several months – but just a few days away from training will see that go out the window.”

“Good recovery contributes to keeping healthy all year round, leaving me free to focus on increasing my output at the right times of year.”

Asked about the optimum rest time required for an individual, Carly says,

“This all depends on the individual and how long you have been training. For me, I might only rest half days at a time – but at certain times of year I might back off for a whole week if my schedule allows it. But for most people working out in the gym, it could be a case of exercising one day on and one day off.”

Although she claims she often finds it difficult to unwind (“I think this is fairly common for females,” she says), a good film whilst putting her feet up is Carly’s favourite way of chilling out.

And she doesn’t agree with the old adage about not eating before bed, either: “I think there are too many hang ups about eating at certain times. I east right before bed and it has always worked well for me.”

Carly stresses that above all, ensuring the right environment for recovery is crucial. She says,

“Being comfortable is crucial and knowing that your posture is right and body is being looked after while you sleep is more important than you can imagine. Having had problems sleeping in the past I’ve just started sleeping on a Mammoth mattress. In just a week I could feel an increase in deeper sleep and I soon stopped feeling restless or getting up during the night.

“Mammoth’s mattresses are designed to take the pressure off my back, neck, pelvis and knees – all problem areas for people who lift – and actually aids circulation, allowing blood to get to the muscles and feed them the oxygen and nutrients they need to repair and grow.”

“Not only have I seen improvements in my performance – but it’s helped my mood to!”

Carly Thornton can be contacted for all PT and nutritional plans at

Check out the ‘Mammoth’ Mammoth slept on by Carly Thornton.