This is one aspect that many don’t seem to consider when they start a training regimen but it is absolutely central to success. Training whether that be running, playing sports or lifting weights is a stress to the body. To cause the adaptations we want, we have to place the body under stress and then let it recover.
However, if we already have high lifestyle stress on top of the added stress from training this can quickly overload the system and leave us feeling terrible. Now it’s not as simple as saying eliminate all your stress, those of you who have high pressure jobs or young children don’t have that option. So, we have to look at strategies to bring that stress down. These will again be completely individual to you but things like yoga, meditation or going for a relaxing walk can all do wonders for lowering overall stress but the key is to find something you enjoy and can implement regularly. I will quickly note that alcohol is not going to be an effective stress management tool as it may make you feel better temporarily but it will actually add to overall stress on the body.
These three areas are the key to having a good recovery protocol in place and should be the primary focus of attention as without them any other methods are going to be ineffective. If these are locked in and you want to optimise the recovery process as much as possible we will quickly look at some common methods of doing so.
If you are someone who lets the stresses of work adversely affect your health and fitness, have a look at this article on the issue of ‘Too Much Work’
This may seem a strange one, since when did doing more work enable you to recover better but this has good scientific backing. Active recovery consists of usually some lighter intensity cardio the day following a training session. If we squat on Monday and we don’t train again till Wednesday it may be a good idea on the Tuesday to do some active recovery. The rationale behind this is that by exercising the muscles again in this light way we can pump more blood into the area and flush out the by-products of training which will speed up recovery. The key is not to make this another load of hard training just an enjoyable short easy session so a walk, yoga or a short stint on an exercise bike are all excellent ways to recover without adding in any extra stress to the body.
Some of the benefits of massage have been shown to be a perceived reduction in fatigue and positive effects on both stress levels and sleep. Remember stress and sleep being two of the three key areas so if you enjoy massage it can be an excellent addition. Also, regular massage has been correlated to improvements in flexibility and a reduced injury rate which if you want to keep training regularly are obvious plusses.
(If you are interested in booking a massage with one of our in-house sports therapists, click here for more info)
This can come in numerous forms, ice baths, hot baths and contrast therapy. Firstly, ice baths, these are a tricky one they do seem to offer a benefit in removing lactate acid and other by-products of hard training and they help dampen down central nervous system fatigue. However, they suppress the inflammatory response of the body which can slow down the rate of muscle growth and recovery. For this reason, they are best used during deload weeks where muscles are more rested and not in need of as much repair or if you have a lot of inflammation which is causing issues.
Hot baths don’t seem to offer any added recovery ability above and beyond you finding them enjoyable and relaxing but in this respect, they could be good recovery tool if they help you reduce stress or sleep better. Contrast therapy is the practise of going from cold water to hot water then back again usually repeated for several bouts. These again line up pretty much where ice baths do, they can be a useful tool if used at the right time.
This is one of the most common recovery strategies and for good reason it is very effective. Keeping flexible and mobile has obvious benefits beyond just recovery and should really be included in everyone’s regimen as a matter of course. However, looking just at recovery, it has been shown to reduce muscle soreness and restore range of motion following resistance training.
To get your recovery on point and really make the most of your time in the gym make sure to get the big three right, if you get enough sleep, eat right and keep a handle on your stress your on to a winner as far as recovery goes. Pick whatever other methods you feel suit you best, personally I use active recovery and stretching regularly with contrast therapy during deloads or times I’m feeling particularly sore.
The key to getting any of these elements in place is getting your head in the right place to begin with.