Proper recovery is essential to your progress in training, your ability to train consistently, and in preventing injuries. In my experience however, the people who usually worry about recovery and (more specifically) overtraining the most are the people who aren’t training hard enough to ever have to worry about it. If you’re consistently training moderately/hard more days per week than you’re not, you definitely need to be conscious of your recovery work.
“You don’t get better during training, you get better recovering from training”. More is not necessarily better when it comes to training – better is better. The minimum effective dose wins. Here’s my favourite tips on how to recover so you can continue to train hard:
1. Eat food – yes, real food. I definitely encourage protein shakes when needed, but hopefully you have some time to eat good, real, unprocessed food after a workout. Best combination of macronutrients for recovery post-workout is mainly protein + carbohydrates. Try to eat within the hour after exercise, sooner might be better but no need to force something down if you’re just not hungry. Tip: always keep portable snacks on hand, protein powder in a shaker cup, and/or BCAA’s to help you make it through to a proper meal.
2). Sleep – It just cannot be stressed enough, the importance of consistent 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you have young babies or toddlers (or just major chaotic days) this might not be possible. You’re going to have to do really well in the other categories and just do what you can in this one. Start getting into a sleep routine. Turn off the electronics at least 30-60mins before bed time, have a bath, eat a snack if you’re hungry, have some herbal tea, find out what works for you. Tip: try the Sleep Cycle App. You set your phone alarm for a range of time in which you need to be up (e.g. between 630am-7am), and keep your phone on the corner of the bed by your pillow. The app detects your movement and wakes you up in the lightest phase of your sleep during the times you set, so you feel more rested.
3). Soft tissue and mobility work – This one is so, so important. Are you already including some type of “trigger point release” into your training sessions? Dean Somerset does a great job explaining how to foam roll and why it’s so important, in this article. Make sure you give yourself extra attention on the foam roller around the hips – glutes, IT band, quads. You need to foam roll slower than slow. You actually don’t even to roll most of the time, you just need to stay on the points that are most tender and hold it right there. Breathe deeply and wait it out until it’s not so tender before moving on to the next point. Tip: graduate to the tennis ball and lacrosse ball after some consistent use of the foam roller. For a posture fixer upper, lie on the floor with a ball under your body, in your pec minor region (around your chest, shoulder joint). You’ll likely find some “hot spots”!
4). Properly planned programs – Even if you’re not training for a sport, your training schedule should be periodized to avoid boredom, muscle/movement balance, and plateaus. This means you have periods or days of higher and lower intensity in your schedule. Periodization can simply look like changing your rep/rest scheme every 4-6 weeks. Tip: For the next 4 weeks keep your strength exercises around 5 reps, and then your metabolic resistance training (MRT) exercises around reps 10. The next 4 week phase take your strength exercises down to 3 reps and your MRT up to 12 reps.
5). Fish oil supplements – Perhaps the supplement of all supplements? Fish oil is rich is omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These are good for all kinds of things including increasing metabolism, muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin, fat cells decrease, mood stabilization and repair/regeneration. This article from Precision Nutrition explains the benefits of fish oil. PN recommends at least 6-12g of total fish oil per day, however they also recommend 1/2g per 1% fat mass to their lean eating coaching clients. So if you have 25% fat mass you would be taking 12-13g per day. Tip: Try a liquid fish oil that is flavoured in your protein shakes. I take Nutra Sea brand that is a fish oil + Vit D, current bottle is crisp apple flavoured.
These are big bang for your buck recovery strategies. Try to incorporate each of these to some degree in your training schedule and lifestyle. You will see your results from training increase significantly with just a bit more effort into your recovery.