As we know, recovery is just as important as training. During training we break our bodies down. During recovery is when it repairs and strengthens itself. But most people are not recovering properly. It doesn’t matter if you are working out hard for 5-6 days a week if you’re not optimizing your recovery.
We naturally recover when we sleep and throughout the day, but that isn’t enough. Leading a stressful life, going through some tough times and simple lack of relaxation can interfere with how we recover. We don’t want training to be an “add-on” to that stress list. If you really want to get the most out of your day off, here is how you can optimize your recovery:
A key component of recovery, sleep is always overlooked. We live in a society that rewards “hard work”. But the type of hard work that makes people choose working overtime and staying up late. It is easy to under perform in your sleep due to all other “tasks” you must do. If you are not getting a good 7-8 hours of sleep is body is not getting stronger than your baseline.
We work harder, sharper and smarter after a good night of sleep. We are in a better mood and happier. Our recovery is better, so we are ready to take on new challenges. There are many things that can help you get a better sleep. Room temperature, room darkness and electronic usage are a few. Remember, it’s not just quantity of sleep, but also, the quality of sleep.
POST WORKOUT MEAL
Believe it or not, but recovering from a workout starts as soon as you are done with it. So having the right fuel in you is very important. Muscles need primarily two things to recover. Carbs and protein. The latter is used to rebuild and create new muscle fibers and the former is used for resupply of used energy and for energy to rebuild the muscle.
Much is talked about the “post-workout anabolic window”, when you should be getting the macros we talked about. But as long as you get them in before you sleep, when most of the recovery happens, you should be good.
FOAM ROLL AND STRETCH
We have already touched on the benefits of foam rolling on a previous blog post, but, overall, self-myofascial release can reduce soreness and promote blood flow when done right after a workout, or on days off. Stretching can do the same, promoting blood flow and acting as active recovery. Both of those can also improve range of motion, so it is not only a recovery tool but it can be a tool for performance improvement.
Athletes, and most people in general, live in a constant state of inflammation. It can be due to stress, bad nutrition or exercise. Even though inflammation is necessary in our bodies, for the most part it causes problems. Aches, swollen areas and pains can be attributed to inflammation so it’s important to fight it.
We know Omega-3 helps lower inflammation, but another important thing you can do is to get cold. Ice baths and cryotherapy are some good options. The most efficient and less annoying way of doing it, though, is to take a cold shower. There are many studies that have supported the idea that cold showers not only fight inflammation, but it boosts immune system and increases our energy levels.
For starters, most people drink less water than they should on an average day. That becomes a bigger problem when you add training to that schedule. Not only we use and lose water, we also lose minerals and electrolytes. They are vital for proper function of the body, especially during and after training.
Before you go buy some sugary sports drink, consider the better options. Like coconut water. It provides plenty of electrolytes and it re-hydrates, arguably, better than water. The sugar, or “energy”, you can get from sports drinks can come from whole foods in an after-workout meal instead.
EATING ON DAYS OFF
While most people try to cut back food on days they do not work out, this can have an adverse effect on the body. As mentioned above, it is on recovery days that the body does the most repair. For that to happen it needs building blocks. So we need the same or even more food on the off days. If you don’t properly fuel your body it won’t recover itself when it should be. Optimize your recovery by eating well on days you don’t train.
Another topic we have covered previously, breathing is perhaps the most overlooked recovery activity. Probably because we take it for granted and because most of the time we do it automatically. But specifically due to this unconscious way of breathing, we often do it improperly.
Practicing your breathing during your off days can prove to be more than a recovery activity. Breath work can be done through meditation, a walk around the neighborhood or simply by being mindful of the way you are breathing. By slowing down and focusing on your breath, we can get our body into parasympathetic mode, which helps us decrease stress and increase recovery.
To optimize your recovery is to make sure you get the gains you work for in the gym. There are many ways of doing that and the ones above are a good starting point. Each person is very unique and there might be many extra aspects you can optimize. If you need some guidance and help getting started, let one of your Celebration CrossFit coaches know and we will be happy to help you!
by Coach Matt