I’m resurrecting an old article from the Combat Workshop Site but one worth looking back over as it will be a lot more relevant to you guys these days as your work capacity and output has increased significantly since this post was originally published …
If you are training frequently, at a high level , working a full time job, not getting enough sleep, stressed out, experiencing aches and pains, a drop in energy levels chances are high you are on the fast train to burn out city and the chances are also high that you aren’t working on your recovery. That’s right, I said working. You see recovery like most things in life doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also a relative curve, the more you are working on your training, the more you need to be working on your recovery.
Lack of recovery usually leads to over training which in turn leads to prolonged periods of sub-par performance and nasty injuries and the higher the level you train or compete at, the longer it can take to recover from.
You need to be treating recovery with the same respect you treat your workouts. Adaptation to your workouts (getting stronger / fitter) only happens during recovery. It’s when all the good things happen.
So what’s the best way to work towards relaxing?
Glad you asked, here are some of my favourites. Now I could spend a lot of time on the ‘ins and outs’ of it, but I know how impatient and keen you guys are to get on this so I will get straight to the point and if I’ve missed anything, run it by me in the gym or email me.
For me this is the Daddy. If you’re not getting at least 8 hours a night, stop reading, go to bed. Seriously. Once you hit that magic number come back and see what the next step is towards the recovered promised land.
If you still need convincing on sleep, here goes … many beneficial hormonal responses happen while you’re catching those Z’s. Testosterone levels and growth hormone levels are elevated during sleep and this assists in repairing and rebuilding muscle and connective tissues which means less aches and pains and also strength and fitness gains. At the very least, a good night’s sleep resets your body back to a state or readiness. The old wives tale of ‘every hour before midnight is worth two after’ is still a very good bit of advice – ‘physical recovery’ happens between 10 – 2am.
As with fish oil supplementation, eating the right foods will have your body in an anti-inflammatory state, this again means less aches and pains. Eat a recovery meal ideally within 30mins of working out. Protein is hugely important to help rebuild and remodel damaged muscle tissue. Carbohydrates will also replace muscle and liver glycogen stores.
Fish Oil supplementation
I have mentioned it above but I feel it needs a small paragraph of it’s own. One of the many benefits of fish oils are their anti-inflammatory properties. Dosages depend on numerous life style factors but to get an idea of how much you need, check out this fish oil calculator.
At the same time it is worth noting that I am not 100% sold on the recommendations where fighters are concerned. I have found that although higher dosages of fish oils definitely improved my recovery from hard sessions, it also makes me bleed easier – not good if you are going to be competing in MMA or if you’re one of those people that just like playing with knives.
Again, this should fall under the nutrition umbrella but it is something that should be highlighted as it often gets overlooked. You should be looking to raise water intake prior to training, even days in advance. Drinking on your rest days will also help flush toxins out of the muscles and keep them supple.
Spending a bit of time going over static stretches post training helps recovery in that it improves muscle elasticity, removes waste products by increasing blood flow to the muscles, reduces muscular tension and soreness.
Self Myofascial release
A fancy way of saying foam rolling, definitely one for the pain junkies out there. Training frequently and at high intensities will overtime cause soft tissue adhesion (knots) which will cause muscles to shorten in length and function sub optimally. Rolling basically kneads out these knots and helps restore muscle function and length.
There are many contrasting (sorry, I couldn’t resist) recommendations regarding how to do this. I have found, 30 seconds to a minute in cold and double that in warm is a decent guideline. The contrasting of hot and cold, increases and decreases the flow of blood to the muscles and helps remove metabolites – the stuff that causes all the aches and pains and also stimulates the nervous system.
I have also found for lower limb soreness a shallow cold bath prior to a warm shower is very effective in alleviating muscle soreness. Candles and lavender oil are optional.
I’m sure some people will find this a little suspect and point out that any studies done to show the effectiveness of such equipment or either limited or probably heavily funded by the manufacturers of said clothing companies but I am hearing more and more positive things regarding compression clothing and have found them useful in my own recovery.
So that’s my recovery check list. One builds on the next, if your sleep or nutrition isn’t dialed in, work on that first instead of investing time in the smaller details, you’ll get greater returns.
It is also an idea to try out some easy training days or active recovery days after a hard training day, things such as swimming, jogging, stretching or mobility work.
I hope you have found some of these suggestions useful and even more importantly I hope you try and put them into practice. An apple or banana post training doesn’t cut it. Done properly, a sound recovery plan will improve your ability to adapt to your sessions (greater fitness and strength gains), have you ready to attack your next session, avoid injury or burn out, help keep you away from the dreaded plateau, who doesn’t want that??