- Proper recovery is essential to sports performance
- Keep recovery simple and focus on long and short term recovery techniques
- Sometimes you just need a rest day!
Recovery is essential. It’s as simple as that. And the more time you spend on your recovery, the more you are going to improve as an athlete, both physically and mentally. Being in a fatigued state is never beneficial. Yet many athletes, at all levels, will still attempt to push through that pain barrier and train themselves into an ‘overtrained’ state, doing nothing but weakening the body and mind.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to grind through intense training cycles, or multiple workouts in a day, if you are on point with your recovery and are allocating enough time on getting yourself primed for the next workout. Not only that, you need to make sure you are maximizing your time with the correct recovery methods. Failure to do either, will only lead to injury.
Weekend warrior or podium hopeful, recovery should be part of daily life. At whatever level you are, if you are training on a regular basis and to a certain intensity, the reality is that your body is almost always in a state of recovery – your muscles are constantly repairing and building. Recovery is important because it is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place (1). Spending sufficient time on your recovery will also allow you to replenish glycogen stores – your body’s energy stores that are lost during exercise.
When it comes to how much time you should spend on your recovery, it varies per person – your individual fitness levels, the type of exercise you do and perhaps the familiarity of the exercise. Of course, the more time spent on it, the better, but generally the same methods of recovery can be applied to everyone. When it comes to recovery, I like to keep things simple and think of it as a simple two-fold strategy: short and long term. Short term — getting from one workout to the next on a daily basis. Long term — protocols such as scheduled rest days and de-load weeks, something that has been well thought out and designed for you and your training program.
Recovery doesn’t need to be a chore. It can in fact be extremely rewarding, especially when you start seeing the real benefits. So, sticking with the idea of the short and long term process, below is an outline of some of the things you can consider when planning your recovery. Let’s get you started on maximizing your muscle recovery time.
Short Term Recovery
This element of your recovery is what you need to think about from the point of dropping that barbell, to the point of when you return to the gym again. Your coach has called ‘time’ and it is therefore time to cool down and kick start your recovery. There are multiple things you will need to consider and be diligent with on a day to day basis, to maximize your recovery within a short span.
While real food should always going to take precedence in one’s nutrition plan, supplements are extremely convenient and a great way to kick off your routine. They are also a super quick way of getting essential vitamins and minerals after your body has been through an intense workout. I’ve talked about replenishing those lost glycogen stores – well, this is the time to start. Before you’ve even left the gym, you can knock back a protein shake with some carbohydrate added and start building. Make sure you opt for a quality protein source, such as Puori PW1.
A staple for everyone. Food is crucial to your recovery and time spent on ensuring you are feeding yourself with the right nutrients should be of the highest importance. While your recovery shake is the emergency fuel, mixture of protein and carbohydrates post-workout will support protein synthesis and muscle recovery, as well as further replenishing those glycogen stores.
Many will think exercising again surely defeats the point of recovery. However, sitting on the couch as opposed to doing some low-impact cardiovascular exercise, can actually do you more harm than good. The purpose of active recovery in between sessions is to keep the blood pumping around your body. Some of us will have a sedentary lifestyle, and often sat down in a chair the majority of the day. Cue increased muscle soreness and cramps. While recovery is the name of the game, the use of your muscles during active recovery may in fact benefit lactate clearance (2). So, whether it’s a light jog, a hot yoga session or even taking a lunch time stroll, get moving and get the blood flowing.
It’s amazing how many people neglect the importance of a good night’s sleep, yet it is arguably the most effective recovery method for your body to switch off and allow your muscles to repair themselves. Most importantly – sleep is free and requires no effort on your behalf but to simply allocate enough time to get the dose you need. If you’re training hard, a minimum of 8 hours is required, without compromise.
Long Term Recovery
Just like you need to take days and weeks off from work, your body needs to apply the same principles to the gym. While short-term recovery will keep you ticking over, there will come a point where you need a complete break physically and mentally.
Going 100% at every workout is only going to leave you drained. Scheduling in rest days helps you determine the intensity of your training schedule and it is important to be strategic with them. As an example, If you like to typically take a full rest day on a Sunday, go hard at the start of your week, perhaps have a lighter, more recovery based session mid-week and then pump it up again towards the end. Train hard but train smart.
Planning a ‘lighter’ week may come as a worry to some, but it’s going to take much longer than 7 days to lose all your gains! Sometimes tapering off your sport may be exactly what you need. This could come in the form of simply reducing the intensity of that training week, doing a completely new activity or even having an entire week off. You are the judge of your mind, and your body. But taking a few steps away from the training ground is what the soul needs from time to time, to keep things fresh!
As an athlete, you’ll soon come to realize that the greater the training intensity, the more emphasis on recovery is needed. Monitor your workouts, pay attention to your training, recover by all means necessary and keep your body and mind motivated.
- Adaptation to exercise-induced muscle damage. Clarkson, P.M., Byrnes, W.C., Gillisson, E. and Harper, E., (1987)
- Blood lactate clearance during active recovery after an intense running bout depends on the intensity of the active recovery. Menzies, P., Menzies, C., McIntyre, L., Paterson, P., Wilson, J. and Kemi, O.J. (2010)