Over the past 15 years, I’ve had my fair share of clients who get frustrated or hit plateaus with their exercise routine. What I’ve learned in this situation is that most of my clients weren’t overtraining, but rather they were under-recovering. While they were putting in the hard work and long (sweaty) hours, they weren’t putting in the intentional time to unplug and recover! And why would they? It’s not considered the fun or sexy part of exercising and it may not give you an endorphin rush like a good workout. However, it may give you better results.
Believe it or not, my clients with weight-loss goals actually lose weight when they take a few days off to let their body recover. It’s all about balancing stress (from workouts) with the appropriate amount of recovery. It’s also important to understand that the volume of the stress of the workout dictates the volume of recovery necessary. Simply put, you can’t have one without the other.
If you aren’t getting the workout results you’ve wanted, consider trying these simple techniques that will help optimize your recovery.
- The majority or the body’s recovery takes place during effective sleep. No nutrition plan, supplement or fitness device will be able to replace the body’s natural means to restore homeostasis. During sleep there are hormones that are elevated while others are suppressed; all collaborating to create a perfect recovery cocktail. Just like a workout, it’s not just about showing up and getting “credit.” Think of it like a workout, using volume and intensity. You need the right about of volume (hours of sleep) and intensity (quality of sleep). Sleep supports the muscles and brain significantly in their ability to recover and function optimally. Check out some of the common mistakes (and solutions to help) you might be making in your bed time routine here. The key is to focus on the quality and to do so it’s all about preparation. What’s your environment like? Is it conducive to good sleep (noise, temperature, light, distractions, etc.)?
- Have you ever been really sore from a tough leg workout or a long run? Sometimes it seems like the last thing you want to do the next day is get up and workout. If you’re thatsore, you probably shouldn’t go and stress your body out with another strenuous workout. However, the reality is that movement can actually be the best thing for you! By moving more you’re helping increase circulation and mobilizing fluids in your body. You’re sending oxygen-rich red blood cells in and telling the metabolic waste to move on out. For clients who have soreness, I encourage them to walk, jog, foam roll, stretch and sauna. All of these low-intensity activities will help increase circulation and promote metabolic recovery.
- There are also a few tools to help with increasing circulation. You might use a foam roller with vibration built into it (like the Vyperor Hypersphere). The pressure and friction that it creates helps break up tissue, while the vibration can dramatically increase blood flow and help promote recovery and decreased soreness. A massage device like the Hypervolt can target specific areas of the body that need the attention to help break up tissue while localizing a ton of great circulation. Another great recovery tool is the Normatec system. This technology was designed to help decrease soreness and downtime and to create an optimal recovery environment. Specific compression technology works to help move waste fluids out, and good fluids in. These tools all played a huge role in my recovery from a recent knee surgery.
- One way to have your nutrition help speed up your recovery is to avoid foods and drinks that may cause more stress or inflammation. When you exercise, you are typically sweating and losing water along with a few other nutrients. Dehydration is a stress that can slow down the body’s recovery process, so be sure to drink plenty of water. If you’re strength training (and everyone should be!), you certainly want to ensure that you’re consuming enough protein to help with repairing your muscles. We don’t have protein storage like we do for fats and carbohydrates, so it’s important that we can replenish protein at the best times (think post-workout for easily digested protein and 45-60+ minutes after workout for whole food protein since it takes longer to digest). In addition, there are some supplements that can help promote recovery by putting a few things together like a BCAA recovery drink. In addition to the key amino acids, they should also contain other key ingredients to help support your recovery strategy.
The most important recovery technique that you can incorporate into your routine is to give it as much time and energy as you do your workouts. It’s just as important as your workout, maybe more. By doing so, you’ll feel better and give yourself the best chance at optimal results!
Written by Mitchell Keyes – Life Time Training, NASM-CES, NASM-PES, RTS-123, MAT Graduate
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.