When someone is training, whether it be for an event or just to get in better shape, many hours are spent not only planning each days’ activities, but also in working towards a goal. Most athletes spend most of their time making sure that they get enough training hours into each week. A smaller number of athletes spend adequate time ensuring that their nutrition supports their training efforts (which is as equally important as the training itself). However, very few athletes give enough attention and respect to one of the most important parts of training:
Recovery is the glue that holds everything together.
Without this glue areas in the body will gradually become dysfunctional and begin to fall apart. Physical training, in any form, pushes the body to its limits. This causes the body to breakdown as limits are surpassed and the athlete tries to make improvements. As muscles and other soft tissues are stressed, as in training, they essentially breakdown and cause micro-tears in the muscle fibers. After training, the body responds by building that tissue up stronger than before to support such efforts the next time. This is how muscles become larger and performance is increased.
Now, what happens if you put your body through the same physical stress before it has had time to recover?
Essentially, you will be breaking down tissue that began the day at 90% instead of 100%. This means that by the time you are done training you will have once again broken down the muscle tissue, but this time to a greater extent since you were not 100% at the start of training. Now, the body is a remarkable machine that can adapt to many situations and learn to cope with many stresses. By no means does this mean that you have to be 100% rested and fresh before each day of training. However, if this scenario is repeated numerous times you can see how eventually the tissue will not be able to withstand the same levels of training. Soon the tissue will be starting the days’ training at 20% and little work can be done before the tissue fails and injury occurs.
Recovery is a complex puzzle that requires more than just a little time off. Understanding the importance of recovery and how to implement it correctly into your training plan will not only boost performance, but it will keep you active and injury free. I am amazed at how many people completely ignore their rest days, or don’t pay any attention to their bodies to help themselves feel better. It happens ALL THE TIME!
Question: Would you repeatedly push the limits of a Formula 1 car without tuning up the engine, rotating the tires, and tightening any loose parts?
The answer is NO WAY! However, for some reason we think that we can just push our bodies to the limit everyday and not have maintain them. The harder you push your body, the more time you have to pay attention to assisting with recovery. Now, the biggest reason I hear for why people don’t do this is they don’t have time. Trust me, I get it. Time is essential, especially when you are working full time, have 2 kids, and are training 10+ hours per week. I’m not talking about spending an hour each day on recovery. If you do little bits each day it will pay off HUGE down the line. One of the reasons people get hurt at the peak intensity of training is because they didn’t put in the 10 minutes each day taking care of their bodies. Most people want to wait until they have pain before they think about pulling out the foam roller, getting some chiro work or massage work, or stretching. This just isn’t going to cut it. Rotating the tires once all the tread is gone isn’t going to help you very much.
So what can I do?
I knew you’d be asking that right about now so here are some things that you can do to keep your body tuned up:
Foam roll: everyday! (or better yet get yourself a HyperVolt)
Eat healthy: this plays a much bigger role that you can imagine
Take specific supplements: it is important to support your active lifestyle and give your body all the ingredients it needs to perform at a high level
Make sure your internal health is dialed in: get periodic comprehensive testing to makes sure your hormones and blood markers are supporting your training
Epsom salt baths: help your muscles recover, improve blood flow, and just relax!
Strength train: you must stay strong in order to support whatever sport your participate in (and don’t tell me your running is your strength training)
Get regular massages: from an actual therapist, not just someone who is going to press and rub on muscles
Get sport appropriate tune-ups: sports chiros are the best (of course!): make sure muscles are healthy, joints are moving appropriately, and you’re moving at functional levels
Stay hydrated: many people miss the boat on this one
Sleep: if you are not sleeping well enough or enough hours you are missing the #1 way to recover
This list could go on and on, but don’t underestimate how important each one of these are. If you are not doing these then start now. Most of them don’t have to take too much time out of your schedule. Just understand that they will pay off when you are not taking time off from training because you are hurt!
And of course, we can help you with each of these ( and more). This is specifically why I have added assessment of all of these pieces to my practice. Recover is the name of game. Find a way to maximize your recovery and you are guaranteed to be able to train harder and perform better!