If you're NOT focused on recovery, you're compromising your results...
Recovery from training sessions is an essential but all too often overlooked factor in optimising performance and results in the gym.
Recovery is where most of the magic happens.
But, like the vast majority of people, you may be paying little to no attention to your recovery.
Never mind actively optimising it – you’re potentially missing out on some significant results (and increasing your risk of injury).
If increasing your results while decreasing your risk of injury, while boosting your physical health sounds like a win, this is for you.
What you need to know:
How important is recovery?
No matter how hard you work in the gym, recovery is primarily where results are gained.
Your body needs to recover and then adapt to training as you rest.
Improving recovery means a decrease in recovery time, so you get to workout more often and have more in the tank when you hit the gym.
The stronger you get, and the more weight you lift, the more your body will need to recover from the increased demands of training.
And remember, recovery becomes more important as you age! Older guys and gals, take note, these tips are more important for you!
Post workout - a crucial time for recovery
What you do straight after a workout can make a huge difference as to how you feel for the rest of the day, and importantly how you feel in your next training session.
This is the best place to start if you’re looking to access a new level of performance at the gym.
Massage within 10 minutes of working out has been shown to decrease recovery time.
Whilst it would be nice to get a professional sports massage after every workout, for the majority of us it’s highly impractical.
You can, however, get on the foam roller straight after your session to improve blood flow to tired muscles.
You won’t regret trying this!
Follow this up with a stretch.
This is the ideal time to go for a deep stretch as you’re fully warm and can push to increase range of motion without affecting your workout.
Post workout nutrition
Getting post workout nutrition right can improve recovery time substantially.
While your muscle glycogen stores will naturally replenish fully over 24hours, if you’ve got another workout or a fairly active job, you’ll want to be back on your game sooner.
Protein synthesis post workout can also be optimised by ingesting high quality protein within 2 hours of working out.
A recovery shake with 1:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates will achieve both.
Add 5g of leucine, 10g glutamine and 3-5g of creatine for maximum impact.
Infra red saunas have been shown to significantly improve recovery – with deeper heat penetration than a regular sauna.
If you have access to one, use it! I’d recommend getting 20 minutes in one on a rest day after a stretching session.
Ice baths on the other hand have been debunked when it comes to muscle recovery.
Whilst they may make you feel better by decreasing muscle soreness (DOMs), the way they do this is actually to reduce the post workout inflammation.
Post workout inflammation has been shown to help recovery, so while you feel ready to go again, you’ll have wasted the effort of working out.
There are other benefits to ice baths but I’d argue against using one straight after a workout.
All of the above is really adding to what should be your number 1 priority: sleep.
In an ideal world, waking up naturally without an alarm clock would be perfect in allowing you to get as much sleep as you needed.
With modern life getting in the way, aim for 8 hours and have at least one night a week waking without an alarm.
Other tips to improve sleep quality:
Napping – this is as much about stress reduction as it is sleep. Taking time out of your day to switch off, it doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep (it can take practice before you will), the time spent relaxing/switched off will still benefit.
A twenty minute nap is ideal to leave you refreshed.
Soft tissue treatment
Don’t wait to get a pull or strain to get some sports therapy.
Benefits of soft tissue massage include improving mobility, reducing stress, improving blood flow to help remove toxins and increasing lymphatic drainage to help flush out pathogens.
Set some time aside to work on tightnesses yourself too.
You know that sore joint that bugs you? Treat rest days as an opportunity to work on that.
Epsom salt bath
Intense exercise can deplete muscles of magnesium – a sure sign of this is suffering from repeated muscle cramps.
Magnesium plays a number of important roles within the body, including helping to regulate electrolytes in your body, which ensure proper nerve and muscle function.
Epsom salts break down into magnesium and sulphate which are absorbed through your skin.
Taking a hot bath with 500g of Epsom salts for 10-15 minutes before bed will restore the magnesium levels in your muscles and leave you relaxed and ready for a restful sleep.
Both magnesium and sulphate also improve the production and use of insulin, which is responsible for muscle growth, as well as regulating blood sugar and energy levels.
Having a hot epsom salt bath before bed is a triple win for recovery:
The Last Word
We can all do something better in order to aid the essential element in exploding your performance and gains: recovery.
Some of these tips don’t take long, some are more involved.
The more you can do the more you difference you will see.
If you only change one thing you’ll be improving recovery.
To your lean, healthy, optimised future,
Coach Dom Kinsey