Fitness is built by a process of stress and recovery. During a hard training block or training session, an athlete puts large amounts of stress on their body. After a period of rest, this training stimuli stresses the body and stimulates building strength and endurance through adaptation to the stress but only if adequate rest or recovery is taken.
The Training Block and Why it’s Important
In order to maximize training stress, an athlete can stack hard days back to back and hard weeks back to back during a long “block” that last anywhere from two to four weeks. By using certain recovery techniques during this hard training block (or really any training period), the athlete can come back each day a bit less fatigued than without proper recovery. More importantly, better recovery means less risk of injury (especially overuse injuries), illness and overtraining.
Techniques to Enhance Recovery
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some techniques you can use to enhance your own recovery so that you can come back to each session able to push that little bit harder.
Consume Calories After a Workout—A 150-250 calorie recovery drink or meal that’s three parts high glycemic carbohydrates and one part protein helps begin the rebuilding process. This drink or meal should be consumed after you’re done with a hard workout (ideally within 30 minutes of finishing).
Hydrate—Begin drinking water immediately after completing a workout and in the hours afterwards to help transport nutrients throughout your body and remove exercise waste products.
Wear Compression Gear—Compression tights, compression socks and compression boots (such as Normatec) can help blood flow back from your extremities (feet and lower legs) to prevent pooling (decreases risk of blood clots) and into your heart again. Compression boots also provide a mild massage.
Elevate Your Legs—Simply elevating your legs up against a wall for 10 minutes also helps blood back from your extremities.
Get a Massage—No one knows for certain why massage is so beneficial. It does help with blood flow, fascial release and releasing knots or “trigger points” in muscles. Plus, it feels good. Massage (after food and water) is excellent for recovery.
Stretch—Stretching helps with injury prevention as well as getting blood flow back into your muscles and activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Dynamic warm up stretching or foam rolling is appropriate pre-workout. Save static (and hold) stretching until after a workout when you are fully warmed up (plus the stretching will temporarily weaken the muscle fibers being stretched).
Use a Foam Roller—Like a massage, foam rolling releases facial/muscle tension and knots.
Listen to Calm Music—Listen to Enya or another calming artist or music genre to reduce stress hormones and downregulate your autonomic nervous system.
Do Easy Recovery Workouts—Going for a hike, a light spin on the bike or easy swim helps your body remove waste from your muscles and increases blood circulation. These workouts need to be very easy, short, and should not feel like a stress or obligation to do.
Use Heat—Using a heating pad, hot tub, bath, or shower helps muscles relax and increases blood flow to tired muscles and reduces cortisol levels.
Take a Nap—Sleep is the best way to let your body and mind fully rest. During this time, a plethora of hormones are released, including testosterone and human growth hormone.
In the second part of this blog post, we’ll talk about what not to do—things that either reduce the training stimuli too much or reduce your body’s ability to recover.