I spend a lot of the time in my posts & blogs talking about recovery, but somebody asked me recently – what exactly is recovery? What do you mean by that?
Training sessions don’t actually make you any fitter – you get fitter recovering from the training sessions. Your body makes different changes & adaptions to the training that means you can go harder next time.
So in essence, I suppose I’m saying that sitting at home watching junk TV is actually good for you.. don’t tell the kids!
But there are a variety of different things that affect recovery and many different ways to recover! So here’s a few things to think about.
How much recovery do you need?
Recovery comes in many different forms and different coaches/athletes have very different outlooks on recovery. I know some high end athletes that will take two days a week completely off, whereas last month I did a 5 week block without a single day off. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have any recovery, which I’ll explain later in the blog.
Well unfortunately I don’t have a very specific answer for you there. This is going to vary from person to person – but recovery is going to help you not get injured or ill. Keeping you consistent and ready to go for longer. You’re going to have to listen to your body, and if you’re tired – REST. It’s very easy to get swept up in a busy life style and not have time for training, this is ok! Some days you can’t make it to the gym, or get out for a run or make the class. If you force yourself to do it, the likelihood is you’ll be under recovered & cause more harm than good.
I could go through my calendar and tell you the days I’m going to be most susceptible to illness/injury. When the mileage is high, we’re in the middle of a big block & there’s no room for error. I have to make sure I’m sleeping well, eating well & not spending excess time on my feet. Why? Because I’m made of glass and love to train. If you’ve had a very heavy few days at work, that’s going to impact your exercise routine, so make sure you’re giving yourself some down time!
What Affects Recovery?
There are many things that affect the way in which your body recovers, three of the most important ones are:
I listed sleep for as that is the obvious one. It’s not a secret that life becomes a bit of a drag if you’re not sleeping very well. When you’re asleep all the little workers inside your body spring to life and get to work. Fixing any issues you have and making sure you’re in tip top shape for the next morning. It’s one of the most basic lessons you’ll have learned (all the way back) in primary school. The optimum amount of sleep for an adult is 8-10 hours. If you’re putting your body through hard training, you’re going to need to make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep for your body to repair itself, otherwise you have a high risk of making yourself ill.
I hate the word diet, there are so many things wrong with what we associate with the term. By definition a ‘diet’ is in some form of radical nutrition plan in which you neglect a certain element of food. Your body begins to crave it because we’re built to run on a balance of all these things & then you’ll fight it off for 4-10 weeks before caving, either because it’s made you ill, injured or mentally unhealthy. You’ll then proceed to binge on the substance you were neglecting whether it was fat, sugar, carbohydrate, and feel very guilty, coming full circle back to the start. I’ve been there, you’ve probably been there, I see it all the time, but maybe we’ll tackle that in another blog.
Monitoring what you put into your body is essential for recovery, but if you’re dieting, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Your body needs sugars & fast acting carbs to exercise & recover. Fact. One of the best energy sources available to our bodies is fat, so you also need that. And protein a long with a healthy mix of micro-nutrients from fresh fruit & veg has a huge impact on the way in which you recover. If you’re taking a form of medication this can impact your recovery, as can alcohol or things you’re drinking. Supplements can be a great quick fix, but they can’t replace meals! Beginning to think about what you intake is important. Give your body the best chance!
My favourite meal after a heavy session is actually spinach & broccoli soup, with some chicken, a wholewheat bread roll and a little bit of sugar in some form. Why? Because it’s all fresh and I’m replenishing all the stores I’ve used in training. If you want proof that diet has a huge impact on recovery all you have to do is go for a big night out followed by some greasy chips/kebab. You’ll feel less than ideal in the morning!
I listed stress last because this is the most complex and often the first one to be overlooked. There are a whole variety of forms of stress. Training puts a lot of stress on your body and mind, if you add stress from work, an argument with your partner, needing to do the shopping, the list goes on, this isn’t going to do you any good. Life is a busy place! But that’s ok. If you let all these stressed pile up on you, they’re going to have a big impact on the way you recover. If you’re building up the training quite quickly, that will add a lot of stress to your body, so make sure you’re ready for that! When I was working as a full time architect in Bristol, I knew if we were coming up to a big deadline, working flat out, my training was going to suffer. But realizing that, doing what you can to keep yourself happy and not overloading the stress helps a lot. It keeps you in a good place. By trying to keep physical stress + mental stress constant (and low), you’ll be able to recovery much better.
How do I recover?
Well you could do absolutely nothing. Watch some tv, put your feet up, eat well & replenish the good calories that you lost training. But you can also recovery actively. So for me I know I can do a gentle jog or bike of up to an hour, and this will allow my body to recover enough to feel fresh the next day. You could go for a gentle walk to move your legs, fill the muscles with blood but not do any work. You could acquire some compression boots, these help to flush any toxins out of the legs while you relax. Stretching and rolling is a great way to loosen off the muscles and keep them supple and ready for the next session. An ice bath can be added to the list. Anything that doesn’t involve working hard, and does involve letting your body rest.
You have to balance the amount of training you’re doing, with what life is throwing at you. This will determine the amount of recovery you need from day to day.
Hopefully my ramblings will help to keep you on good form as you continue to build up your training, and if you have any questions feel free to get in touch!