In the second article in the recovery series I talked about what exactly recovery is and its role in the training process. In this article we return to more practical information that you can start applying today.
In this article I cover some basic methods of recovery that can be used on a daily basis and in a later article I will cover more specific methods that should be used at specific times during a training cycle.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the information below. Everyday recovery strategies are extremely easy to implement. Most of strategies below are things you already know you should be doing, but much like you “know” you should eat more fruits and vegetables you probably rarely do these things.
The descriptions below are fairly generic in nature and simply provide a basic overview of each. Most subjects have specific articles that go into much greater depth (click on the hyperlinks) and those that don’t will in the next few months.
Everyday Strategies (Overview)
- Sleep – 7-9 hours
- Naps – 15-20 minutes per day
- Meditation – 20-30 minutes
- Foam Rolling – 10-15 minutes per day
- Stretching – 10-30 minutes on recovery days
- Active Recovery (unless in parasympathetic overtraining) – 30-45 minutes on recovery days
- Food quality and quantity
Active Recovery / Aerobic Development
Active recovery / aerobic development is beneficial to every client no matter how strength and/or power oriented their goals or sport may be. All recovery processes are aerobic in nature so having a more well developed aerobic system (to a point) will always help speed recovery and thus the adaptation process.
Low intensity methods such as mobility circuits and low intensity aerobic work help develop the aerobic system and “clears out” the muscles via increased blood flow and metabolic processes. Active recovery sessions are also a great opportunity to address movement issues and to practice diaphragmatic breathing.
+ 30-45 minutes of active recovery work on “off” days provides a significant recovery stimulus
+ Never take a complete day off, always move (at least go for a walk)
Sleep may be the most overlooked way of improving recovery rate. A full 7-9 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep goes a long way towards speeding up recovery. Adequate sleep not only helps with physical (muscular) recovery but CNS (Central Nervous System) recovery, which is ultimately much more important in regards to strength and power output. For more info on this subject check out the sleep article.
I have mentioned the importance of diaphragmatic (aka bell breathing) throughout this article. I consider meditation a combination of proper breathing with positive mental thoughts. This can range from anything from visualization to prayer or really whatever you want as long as it combines those two ideas. I recommend spending 5 or 10 minutes “meditating” before bed or anytime where you feel overly stressed. You will immediately feel more relaxed and have a better mental outlook.
Food quality is as important that food quantity. Eating the proper foods (macronutrients) from high quality sources is far more important that simply “getting enough calories”.
+ Organic whenever possible
+ High quality supplements only
+ Eat veggies to help keep you and your digestive system healthy and digesting food properly
+ Take in EFA’s (essential fatty acids); find out more here
Once you have the food quality under control adequate amounts of food are needed to optimize your body’s recovery capacity. Here are some general guidelines to help
+ At least .75 times your bodyweight in protein daily
+ Proper post-workout nutrition for your goals
+ Proper carbs depending on your goals
Hydration is extremely important for a variety of reasons including being essential for proper function of nearly every process in your body. Everyone should be drinking at least 2 liters (64 ounces) per day regardless of size. Individuals who weigh over 200 pounds, those of you with more muscle, and those who exercise more than 60-90 minutes should consider drinking closer to 3-4 liters per day.
Stretching can help you get into a more relaxed or parasympathetic state that helps aid in recovery. Not only that but it often elicits a positive psychological response, helping you feel more relaxed. Focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breathing during stretching helps increase the effectiveness of the stretch as well.
Soft Tissue Work (Foam Rolling)
General soft tissue work such as foam rolling (I’ll talk about massage, A.R.T., structural integration, Rolfing in part 2) all help facilitate recovery via a variety of pathways. General soft tissue work (at an intensity you can breathe through) typically creates a parasympathetic response (rest and recovery) and can help with local recovery via increased blood flow and decreased neural tension.
If you are struggling with results but are putting in the work in the gym something is missing. Being honest about what is going on outside the gym will help you take advantage of the hard work you have already put in. Often it is the simple things that hold us back from our goals.
If you have already implemented these behaviors continue on to specific recovery methods, where I cover more specific modalities for recovery.