Recovery. The forgotten piece of the fitness puzzle.
Most regular gym goers brush over or just completely neglect recovery. The mentality is to train hard everyday, go balls to the wall in every session and leave the gym absolutely smashed. Most people think this is a sign of a good workout and what you have to do in order to continually get stronger, leaner and burn more fat. This however isn't the case.
Training hard is great, but training smart is greater. If you really want to reach your goals, stay clear of injuries and achieve the body you want then recovery needs to be a major factor in your training. If you have hit a plateau, or aren't seeing the results you thought you would then I guarantee recovery is your missing link.
Why is recovery so important and how will it improve my results?
I get it. You see pictures in magazines or videos on Instagram with guys and girls training really hard all with amazing bodies. You see this and feel thats what needs to be done to get a body like that. Or your friends brag about how the instructor absolutely killed them in class last night, and how funny it was they couldn’t walk properly for days. You feel left out, and think you must do the same if you want a ripped body like everyone else. Although being sore and not able to walk for days isn't a sign that you had a good workout or are getting stronger.
You might be at a stage where you actually don't like training like this. But you feel it has to be done and the pain of not going to class outweighs the pleasure of going. You might have achieved some results in the past, but now weight loss has stalled or you might have even put more weight back on?
Training is stress on the body. Muscle tissue breaks down, cortisol and adrenaline increase, the nervous system gets jacked up and the flight or fight response kicks in. Which isn’t a bad thing, you have to put stress on your body in order for it to adapt. The problem is you need to give the body for it to that stress. Recovery is the time the body replenishes muscle stores, recovers the nervous system and rebuilds tissues allowing it to come back stronger.
Excessive workouts and flat lining every session leads to over training. Over training can suppress your immune system, the body struggles with fatigue and inadequate muscle recovery which leads to burn out, joint pain, illness and no results.
The body recognises stress in one way. Whether that’s from training, social situations or your boss breathing down your neck. This revolutionary hard wiring has ensured our survival as a species on this planet. As we are not running away from sabre tooth tigers anymore, stress is accumulated in other ways. Modern day life has become fast paced and highly stressful. The commute to work, bills, tax, parking tickets, relationships, work environments all all low levels of stress you’re exposed to on a daily basis. Over training and constant exposure to these stressors is not a good combination and leads to sleeplessness, adrenal fatigue, and even excess of stored body fat.
Now might see how training hard all the isn't the answer.
I’m going to show you the most effective ways to recover, and teach you some simple strategies that you can easily implement into your lifestyle.
There are a three key fundamentals to consider when improving recovery. If these are on point then the rest of the recovery process will be much easier and have much greater effect.
Other recovery methods like ice baths, sauna, massage or Yoga won’t be as effective if you don’t focus on the foundation first.
Sleep is by far the most important when it comes to recovery. I feel I mention sleep every week, and there’s a good reason for it. Sleep is key for mental health and physical wellbeing. Quality sleep regulates hormone production, leading to faster workout recovery, better muscle gain, improved metabolism and enhances your focus and productivity. You know how much better you feel after a good nights sleep and this isn’t a coincidence.
Aim to sleep by 10pm. The window for optimum recovery is between 10pm-2am, during this time hormones are secreted at their highest doses which aids in recovery and growth in about every system in your body. These are the golden hours and deep sleep during this time will gain the most benefit for recovery and longevity.
Nutrition is fundamental for optimum health and performance. Nutrition effects your hormones, brain chemistry, metabolism, immune system and gut flora. Eating high quality nutrients fuels your muscles, boosts metabolism and provides you with the energy to perform at your best. If you eat low quality nutrients, you can expect to feel tired, sluggish and hold onto extra body fat.
There is so much to talk about regarding nutrition, but I’m going to stick with some basics that I see lacking in the majority of people when it comes to over training.
Increase micro nutrient density.
These are foods that contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and help improve gut health. When your immune system is in check then you are less likely to fall sick and will be in a much healthier position to train hard and recover sufficiently.
Eating lots of greens, and a wide variety of different coloured veggies provides a full spectrum of dense micro nutrients which help support the immune system.
Eat lean protein at each meal.
Protein is packed full of amino acids, healthy fats and good cholesterol that repairs muscle tissue and about every other system in your body.
Protein replenishes muscle tissue break down after intense exercise and regular feedings tops up your protein stores promoting faster workout recovery, helping you perform better next time you’re in the gym.
Carbs restore muscle glycogen and fuel performance. Carbs post workout brings the body into the rest and digest system which speeds the recovery process enabling it to do it’s job. Carbs wont make you fat! Inactivity and processed carbs is what leads to weight gain and that’s why I always recommend high quality carb sources.
If fat loss is the gaol then place the majority of carbs after training and eat foods like sweet potato, wild rice, oats, quinoa, white potatoes veggies and fruit.
It’s important to monitor Monitor biofeedback on a weekly basis. How was your sleep, mood, hunger, energy, cravings? Give them a rating, keep track and adjust where needed. You never want to go into a huge calorie deficient when training hard, especially if you’re burning the candle at both ends.
The majority of the human is body is made up of water. The brain, blood, skin, even bones contain water in them and being fully hydrated is paramount for optimum performance. The body loses an average of 2.5 litres a day just through breathing, urination and perspiration and this increases with intense exercise.
Keep hydrated!. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times, hydrate before, during and after training, aim for at least 2.5 litres a day and even more on training days.
Once these fundamentals are dialled and consistent we can look at other forms of recovery.
Plan your week.
I’m going to start with this as it’s the most simple to implement and you should be doing this even is the fundamentals aren't on point. Schedule your training week ahead. Know the days you’re going to train and schedule in recovery days. Here is an example training week if you train three times full body or go to a classes.
- Monday Train
- Tuesday Rest
- Wednesday Train
- Thursday Rest
- Friday Train
- Sat and Sun Active recovery or rest.
This is a simple plan of one day on, one day off and works really well. Training two days in a row with one day rest also works well, but I wouldn’t recommend 3 consecutive days of hardcore training? IF you have to train everyday then a high/low approach is great. This is simply one day of hard training, followed by one day easy training like Yoga, a long walk, ride or easy run. This gives a nice balance and the low days will actually speed recovery.
LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State and is a form of exercise that is maintained at a steady pace over a set period of time. This could be something low impact and non stressful on your joints like swimming, cycling, walking or using the cross trainer. This helps pump fresh blood around the body and flushes lactate which both help speed recovery.
Anywhere between 20minutes to 1 hour is enough to help start the recovery process. I like going for a fasted walk first thing in the morning as it helps kick start my day and has the added bonus of burring extra body fat. Walking anytime of the day improves mental clarity and boosts well being. Find something that you can adhere to and schedule it into your off or low days.
Studies show regular meditation reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and inflammation in the body. Meditation releases feel good hormones in the brain, it improves memory, focus and helps regulate how things impact you.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s a case of sitting down, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.
- Find a quiet place.
- Close your eyes and breath through your nose.
- Watch your breath, focusing on the inhales and exhales.
- Thoughts will come and go (which is normal) just keep bringing our attention back
on the breath.
Start with 5 minutes, and aim for 5-15 minutes a day. Meditate first thing in the morning, or when you feel overwhelmed.
Humans breathe around 20,000 times a day. When done properly, breathing oxygenates every cell in the body and improves how efficiently you utilise oxygen. This boosts energy, relieves pain, and calms the central nervous system. It’s important you learn how to use your diaphragm to breathe, as this will better oxygenate your blood and calm the nervous system. The majority of people use the top of the lungs to breathe which leads to anxious breath, and tight neck and shoulders. Breathing 20,000 times a day like this takes it toll.
Box Breathing is a technique of taking breaths for different count cycles. It is a powerful stress reliever and an efficient way to calm the nervous system after training.
How to box breath?
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- hold the top of the breath for 4 seconds
- exhale for 6 seconds
- hold the bottom of the exhale for 2 seconds
- Repeat this cycle anywhere from 5-10 minutes or until you feel a sense of peace and calm.
Use box breathing anytime you feel stressed, or want to regain focus. It is also really effective to use straight after training as it will instantly bring you back into the rest and digest response.
Regular mobility increases blood flow and fluid around the joints, tissues become more supple and this allows the joints to move through their full range of motion. Regular mobilisation is great for recovery as it keeps the tissues healthy, helps align major joints and improves quality of movement. It also helps counteract prolonged sitting and can help improve posture and prevent injuries.
Focus on the hips, chest and mid back, as these areas and are usually tight. Try some of these drills. Either before a workout, or anytime you’ve been sitting for a long time and feel tight.
There are many other forms of recovery and I’ve listed some of my favourites.
- Float Tank
- SMR (self myofasical release
- Spending time with friends
- Finding space (holiday, time for yourself)
Try not to get caught up in the trap of overtraining. I guarantee it wont get you the results you want. Have clear set goals with a timeframe, and choose the training that will get you the results in the shortest amount of time being as economical as possible. If you are interested in a structured training and nutritional programme specific to your goals and lifestyle then get in touch for a strategy call.