Updated: Jan 16
Recovery is an area of performance that has been hijacked by 'con'trepreneurs looking to take advantage of an emerging market. Quicker than you can say the word FAD, new recovery tools, nutritional products, and clothing promising athletes the world were popping up left, right, and centre. And just like that (and just like most things) people lost sight of getting the basics right.
When it comes to recovery, I have a pyramid of priorities that I get my athletes to pay attention to. Reason being, it's easy to look for the quick fix without getting the absolute fundamentals nailed. Now, important to note, there is nothing to say that there aren't other recovery methods that should be in this pyramid over the ones I have chosen. BUT, this is the pyramid I have always implemented, and I'm going to tell you why.
Why Is Recovery Important?
I think it just takes a little bit of common sense to get to the answer with this one. But STILL we see people overtraining and getting closer to burnout. When you train, you put your body through stress. These stressors are needed to ensure your body can begin to adapt and become fitter, faster, stronger etc. Following exposure to these stressors, your body needs the time to repair and recover to ensure full adaptation takes place. This is called the super-compensation theory.
As you can see, performance decreases due to the exercise stress load, and following a period of recovery, the body surpasses previous levels and improves.
Now, compare this with overtraining and no opportunity to recover:
The body never has chance to recover. The result? Overtraining, reduced performance levels, fatigue, and increased risk of injury.
So What's The Best Way to Recover?
Theres no doubt; smart periodised programming is the foundation of recovery. Ensuring there is adequate periods of rest between high and low training load days means you will avoid overtraining. But when it comes to those periods of rest, how can we really make our recovery optimal? Time for my recovery pyramid.
1. Sleep, we all do it, so why not do it properly?
If you are anything like me, you'll love sleep. But if you are also anything like me, you'll be a bit of a night owl. Work, training, parenthood, etc. means I like to try and utilise my evenings for some down time and entertainment (mainly Warzone). But what effect does sleep have on our recovery?
Well firstly, it is my joint 'first' priority on the pyramid. With any athlete I work with I promote the importance of sleep like a salesmen who gets commission for every extra hour you get between the sheets. Why? Studies have shown that sleeping on average 6 hours a night can give you a not so nice looking 75% risk of injury vs. 35% for 8 hours and 18% for 9 (Milewski, 2014). So, that 10 o'clock bed time doesn't seem so boring anymore, I hope?
Still not sure, well here are the negative effects of sleep deprivation:
* Negatively impacts mood
* Increases cortisol (stress hormone)
* Reduces aerobic capacity
And if that STILL isn't enough, hear me out on this; sleep is a performance enhancer. That's right. Get your sleep in and you'll run faster, feel stronger, and react quicker.
2. Nutrition, we all do this one as well....
Ah, the old workout followed by a protein shake trick. That should do the job, as long as you don't miss your window of opportunity immediately after training.
^^^^ wrong, but a great piece of marketing.
In terms of fads, nutrition has got to be up there with one of the worst markets. Pills, shakes, silly diets. All promise the world. But guess what? Let me tell you another little secret.... you cannot go wrong with the basics.
Although I know more than most, I'm not a nutritionist, and I'll always recommend delving into the experiences and qualifications of anybody that says they are. But, what I do know is:
* Protein, carbs, and fat (yes fat) are vital for performance, recovery and health
* Replenishing carbs and protein post exercise is vital for muscle synthesis and recovery
* Water is your best friend
Avoid sugars and alcohol (as much as possible) and get your foods from a variety of natural, lean sources.
Oh look, the basics again, fancy that.
3. Contrast Showers, Embrace the cold, mixed in with a bit of comfort
Now, this is the one that could be up for some debate, but let me explain. There is no doubt about sleep and nutrition. They are the foundation of recovery. BUT, what about when you need something else?? Here's the thing, most weekend warriors and even semi-pros don't have direct access to a physio or sports therapist. So massage and soft tissue work..... not that easy to come about. And for rolling about on a foam roller, hey, if it works for you, it works for you, but I've never been a big fan. That's why I like to recommend the showers. You can do it yourself, research is growing in support all of the time promoting the benefits, and I like them myself!
So what is a contrast shower? It's going between hot and cold intervals in the shower for 5-10 minutes, fairly straight forward. Cold water immersion has been used in recovery for a while, but ice baths aren't everybody's favourite way of spending 10 minutes, so contrast showers may be more up your street.
Studies have shown contrast showers to have the following benefits:
* Improved blood flow
* Reduces inflammation
* Improves mood, attention, and focus
There's two things you and I have in common, we sleep and we eat. So you have an understanding of where I am coming from when I talk sleep and nutrition. Whereas contrast showers could be completely new water for you (pardon the pun).
From a personal point of view. I love contrast showers. Placebo or not, I feel like they work for me, and that's what matters. How it makes you feel.
Bringing It All Together
Before you jump on the massage bed, put on your compression garments, hammer yourself with a theragun, or drowned in protein shakes.
Have you got enough sleep?
Have you eaten enough of the right food at the right times?
Now look elsewhere
P.S. If you haven't already, why haven't you tried the Parfournen Academy free trial?