What are you doing when you are not training? Are you appreciating your recovery needs enough?
For so many of us, the time we take to train is the ‘only’ time of the day we get to ourselves. Busy schedules, family commitments, other interests etc. take up more of our available space than many of us would like. “It’s just life,” we explain, and we automatically deny the fact that we might just need to be a little more economical with our time and or cut back a little on pure “training” time in place of some well needed “recovery” time.
The simple fact of the matter is that recovery is where the magic happens. Whether you’re training for a marathon, bike race, obstacle course race – you name it, recovery is where the fruit of our labor shows itself.
So what exactly is recovery? Merriam-Webster gives one definition as “The act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty.” Not a bad description, but I think when applied to our situation as athletes and movement practicing humans, it might better be adjusted to “The act or process of returning to a STRONGER state after a period of difficulty.”
Beyond replacing “normal” with “stronger”, I also think it important to highlight the word “process”. Recovery is a process, not just a byproduct of sitting on the couch or behind your desk at work after a hard workout. All of the following have an impact on how we recover:
- foods we eat
- movements we make
- posture we hold (on a 24/7 basis and not simply while we ride / run etc)
- tissues we massage
- stress we manage (both physical and mental)
- sleep we get!!!
Ok, so what if you’re not training for a race or event? What if you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Well I’m just training to be healthy. Surely I don’t need the same amount of recovery as someone who has a specific event goal in mind, do I?” And my answer is a huge, ABSOLUTELY! “Just” training to be healthy should be number one on all of our lists, and negating any one of the above factors has serious consequences to the quality of our lives.
So what about the time it takes? I realize we might not all have plentiful hours a day to focus specifically on recovery, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take five minutes at lunch and another 5 minutes after dinner to foam roll and work a bit on mobility. And what’s more, it doesn’t mean that we cannot dedicate a full hour later in our week to a dedicated massage or mobility session with some smart planning. At times, athletes would do better to replace an entire training session with a recovery-specific one.
So what do we do for recovery? Below are some bullet points that Anne and I put together to highlight what we do after our cycling, running and strength sessions and throughout our day. I hope that they are helpful in highlighting some of the important aspects of recovering to come back STRONGER than before!
- Squat! Getting into a deep squat right after getting off the bike or back from a run. It just seems to “re-set” things and make all the muscles that have shortened from repetitive movements long again. And again throughout the day, any opportune moment to get into a deep squat all adds up to the good time spent mobilizing and opening up the often tight hips.
- Similarly to help mobilize and flush, going through a number of drills like A, B, C skips or walking deep lunges works to loosen things nicely after a run or a ride, whilst also keeping a springiness to the step!
- Rehydration. Yes, our bodies are made up of mostly water so that means we need water to help mobilize and flush the tissues. While most hydration needs are met during the session itself, it’s important to continue that through the day. And adding electrolytes is useful too (Pink Himalayan sea salt, Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes, NUUN, etc.)
- Good, wholesome foods. A homemade, real food protein shake / smoothie is always a great thing to start getting down as soon as a workout is done but also as an on the go snack for the day.
- Active recovery in the form of walking (always appreciated by our favorite four legged friend), or a short movement practice that may include getting close to the ground (low gait pattern movement helps mobilize tissues in ways we can otherwise get ‘stuck’ in).
- Soft tissue mobilization and getting to know the particularly tight / stuck tissues to work on (using a roller / lacrosse ball / light ballistic stretching…). Often time is found to do this right after a workout or pre going to bed and spending a focussed 10-15 minutes getting into these few areas is really helpful. If its post workout, not only are you cooling down effectively, but you’re making the most of your time at a time when your body is primed to accept it!
- ELDOA’s! What, you might ask?! A great fascial routine to get into, especially pre going to bed to help decompress the spine prior to the hydration of the discs that should occur during the night.
- Sleep (as much as is possible but hopefully 7- 8 hours a night). And prior to, turning off any electronics and reading a few pages helps getting to sleep quicker.
These are some examples of tools that we have in our box and the point being is its worth having plenty of tools and understanding what we do / don’t do throughout our 24 hours a day that all add up to how we recover from our endeavors, how we feel and how we move generally and how that translates in an athletic as well well rounded human sense!
We hope this generates some positive thinking for you…