6 Tips for Better Recovery
One aspect of training that I feel never gets enough exposure is the concept of improving recovery.
Far too often, we’re focused on simply doing more.
More, more, more!
But as we all know, this can often lead to frustration, burnout and injury.
While it’s easy to focus on doing “more,” the other side of the coin would be to focus on improving recovery instead.
Let’s use the example of Yin and Yang.
While we may think yin and yang are opposing forces, instead, they work harmoniously to promote balance.
Here’s a brief description (stolen egregiously from Wikipedia):
In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang, which is often called “yin and yang”, many natural dualities (such as female and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept, is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one other.
One of the purest examples of the yin-yang concept is the fundamental idea of balancing training and recovery.
Quite simply, increasing the training side of the equation without a concomitant increase in the recovery side of the equation, will get you into trouble.
With that being said, what are some things you can do to maximize or improve your recovery?
We can look at this on a lot of different levels, and this is something I do in a week-by-week progression in my “Bulletproof Athlete” program.
My goal in this post isn’t to get too deep into the physiology of this stuff. That’s better left to someone smarter and more knowledgeable than myself!
Instead, I simply want to list six simple things you can do on a daily, weekly on monthly basis to help you improve recovery and feel better.
#1 – Improve Your Sleep
Believe it or not, I’ve already written a fairly extensive post on sleep before.
Quite simply, you can do everything else right, but if you’re only sleep 3-4 hours per night, you’re starting your recovery behind the 8-ball!
For a fairly thorough overview of sleep, be sure to read my Sleep 101 blog here at RTS.
#2 – Take Hot Showers and Baths Before Bed
I might lose my man card for saying this, but there’s nothing better than a hot shower or bath after a long day.
I’m more of a shower guy personally, but whatever floats your boat – the goal is to relax, unwind, and prepare yourself for epic sleep that night.
In fact, I’m a huge proponent of either a hot shower or bath, followed immediately with some gentle static stretching.
Which leads me to my next point…
#3 – Perform Light Static Stretching
In my estimation, static stretching gets a bad rap.
Is it great for pre-workout readiness?
Is it going to give you the flexibility of Gumby?
But can it help you relax and unwind after a long day or grueling workout?
I sure think so.
The key here is to focus on your specific problem areas. For me, I always have some extra tension in my hip flexors, quads, calves, pecs and lats.
With my goal of trying to lift respectably heavy weights, it comes with the territory.
My favorite time to static stretch is on the evenings prior to a strength workout. I feel like this not only allows me some time for visualization, but gets my body prepared for the workout to come.
#4 – Perform Joint Mobility Work
This crazy thing keeps happening as I get older…
I forget about good things that I used in the past that got results!
One thing I used to do on a regular basis were isolated, low-level joint mobility exercises.
My particular favorite in this regard were the Z-Health exercises. I liked the fact that I was mobilizing all the various joints in my body on a regular basis.
Not only did I feel more connected to my body, but I think this helps counteract the beating you take when lifting heavy weights.
When you do tons and tons of compressive loading, doing something to open up and restore the natural mobility through those joints just flat-out feels good (more on this later).
Again, I don’t care which methodology, approach, or system you subscribe to.
In the end, what’s more important is to do something on a regular basis. Your body will thank you.
#5 – Use Recovery Energy System Workouts
Sorry, but bombing on your body each and every day with a “grueling” or “sick” energy system workout isn’t impressive to me.
If you’ve been doing this for an extended period of time, I’d be willing to argue that:
A) You’re not making much progress, and/or
B) Your body currently hates you!
Not only are “balls-to-the-wall” glycolytic training sessions hard on your body, but I could give you about 1,001 reasons why it’s not optimal for your training, health or performance.
But I digress.
On the other hand, we know that doing nothing is rarely the best option, either. Sometimes going out and doing some low-level activity actually expedites our recovery and makes us feel better in the process.
If you’re feeling beat down, sluggish, or if your HRV is down, consider a low-level restorative workout instead of simply laying on your arse and doing nothing.
In this case you can choose the standard mediums you’ll find in most gyms:
- Stationary biking,
- Brisk walking,
- Elliptical, etc.
However, if the hamster on a wheel approach doesn’t jive with your personality, consider some of the following instead:
- Prowler pushing,
- Sled dragging,
- Go in and do a bunch of random mobility exercises, or
- Go in and do a bunch of exercises that feel good.
I really like the last option. Imagine going in and doing a bunch of half-kneeling work, exercises to get your hips extended, kettlebell arm bars, bodyweight exercise variations, etc..
Do not try and kill yourself with this workout!
Your only goal is to get a light sweat going and make yourself feel awesome when you walk out.
#6 – Track Your Recovery
One thing that’s always amazed is how anal-retentive some people can get when tracking their training.
They write down their sets, reps, load, rating of perceived exertion, and rating of technique for every single workout.
Then, they take all this information and dump it into Excel to take it to the Nth degree!
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying this isn’t valuable.
In fact, I feel as though tracking your training is one of the most valuable things you can do to monitor and gauge performance (or lack thereof).
But often, these same people do absolutely nothing to track their recovery!
If you’re a numbers geek, or want to see what all that training is doing to your body, I’d highly recommend starting to track your recovery.
If you’ve got an extra $30k burning a hole in your pocket, consider picking up an Omega Wave.
If not, I can’t recommend Joel Jamieson’s BioForce HRV app highly enough. This is something I use myself to see how well I’m recovering, and what all that training (and life) stress is doing to my body.
This definitely wasn’t mean to be the be-all, end-all of recovery blog posts.
But hopefully you picked up a thing or two along the way that will make a difference.
What’s one thing that you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to improve your recovery and keep your body feeling awesome?
Let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear your feedback!