As fitness professionals at GF Fitness, we specialise in helping people improve their health & fitness for the long term. We typically help those who exercise once a day, 3 – 6 times per week.
Training recovery is of the utmost importance. Why?
When we train, we actually get worse. What do we mean? To illustrate: if we said, run 1-mile as fast as you can, and as soon as you cross the finish line, we say run another mile as fast as you can, the second mile will undoubtedly be worse than the first. On the contrary, if we said run 1mile as fast as you can, and then we said in 7 days’ time, run 1-mile as fast as you can again, your time will likely improve. We grow, improve and become better during our recovery periods between workouts.
When we talk about recovery, we’re saying, are you allowing enough time between workouts for your body to create a super compensation? “Your body adapts because it knows the stress it’s going to be under, and it gets better at it … Now what we can do through these recovery tools and protocols and focus, is shorten up that time, and if we shorten up that time, you get more exposures, you get fitter. That’s why recovery is so important.” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:07:25)
There are 3 things that need to recover after a workout: the aerobic system, the muscles, and the nervous system. If we don’t create buffers for recovery, we increase our chances of injury, or our performance will consistently decrease, or mentally we implode because our central nervous system is fried.
Below are 10 recovery tools and protocols. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we feel that these techniques will aid recovery:
1. Lacross balls and foam rolling: “The fancier word for that is self-myofascial release … think of [fascia] as scar tissue, tight muscles, or gunkyness … This is a tool you can easily use before or after your training for 2 minutes on a gunky area, [and] up to 20 minutes for a total body [release].” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:13:04)
2. Active recovery: After a really tough workout, certain muscles may be sore to the touch. If that’s the case, we may want to take a full rest day, which could be productive, but active recovery could actually be more productive. With active recovery, “We’re looking for range of motion and blood flow. That will actually speed things up, in terms of recovery.” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:15:08) Muscle soreness is a good thing. It means that the muscles were sufficiently stimulated, however, muscle soreness to the point of excruciating pain to the touch, means that we overdid it, and we should rest until we have fully recovered.
3. Total rest: These days are really important. Even if we’re feeling good physically, it’s important to program rest days to allow our central nervous system time to recover too. How frequently we program a rest day is deeply personal. Some people train 3 days on, 1 active recovery day, 3 days on, and then 1 full rest day. Others train for 5 days straight and then take 1 full rest day. You’ve got to figure out what works best for you.
4. Stretching: Certain muscles may get tight from working out, so stretching these muscles to restore a full range of motion, is most certainly beneficial. Active stretching should be done prior to workouts, and static stretching should be done after workouts. Static stretching eliminates the stretch reflex, which at best will diminish performance. Active stretching, think about exercises such as lunges or high knees, helps to prepare the muscles and the body for exercise, thereby optimising performance.
5. Cold showers/cold immersion: We can only speak about this from a recovery perspective. This technique can be used to bring our body temperature back down to normal after a workout, particularly if we were working out in hot or humid conditions. Simply put, when our body is at its normal temperature, we will recover better.
6. Saunas: Saunas can be beneficial, but we need to be careful. “The right exposure can help recovery … through HGH (Human Growth Hormone) release … but if you go too long in it, you could end up getting dehydrated, and it’s going to make your recovery worse.” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:32:06)
7. Sleep: Sleep is more important than all the other recovery techniques combined! We wrote a detailed post about sleep here. “Anything less than 7 hours and you’re hurting your recovery; you’re getting worse; you’re walking around creating mild brain damage … The kind of magic number is [between] 7 – 9 [hours].” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:33:30)
8. Nutrition: We wrote a detailed post about nutrition here. The big one here is quality and quantity. Eat real foods, and keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
9. Float tanks: This is mainly to aid the recovery of the central nervous system. “These float tanks are a form of sensory deprivation where you get into this dream-like state, and it’s very meditative and you can allow your body to truly [relax]. The idea behind it is that you don’t feel anything. There’s no gravity, there’s no noise, there’s no light … of the 5 senses, everything shuts off, and it allows your body to totally chill.” (Bergeron, 2019, 00:37:44)
10. A.R.T (Active Release Technique) & Body work: Getting things like massages are incredibly good for recovery. The environment is very relaxing and almost meditative, which is great for the central nervous system, and helping us to relax. The obvious one is for the muscles and joints. Not only from a movement perspective, but also the quality of the muscles, and the health of the tendons and ligaments. Chiropractors also fall into this category, and again we advocate the use of them. Ensuring everything is aligned and in place is critical for optimal movement, which in turn will cause less strain on muscles and joints which would have had to compensate.
You can do one, or all of these techniques. The key is to find what works best for you. If you see a few techniques that you haven’t tried before, give it a go and see how your body responds.
Remember, the faster we can recover, the more frequently we can exercise, the fitter we will be. Don’t neglect your recovery.
We hope you found this information valuable. If you’re looking for a professional health and fitness coach to help you on your health & fitness journey, please do contact us.
1) Recover From Your Workouts Better to Get Better (2019) YouTube Video, added by Ben Bergeron [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0VqWN5Burk [Accessed: 27 January 2020].