6 Ways to Own Your Recovery

Every successful athlete knows that a well-rounded training program must include recovery. No matter what your workout routine, the key to improved performance is to push hard in training, followed by planned periods of recovery. Many people neglect this part of the equation, because resting doesn’t seem as exciting, but rest and recovery are essential to progress. 

Why is Recovery Important?

When we are sweating hard in the gym, we can feel the strides we are making. The truth of the matter though, is that unless we complement that training with sufficient recovery to consolidate those gains, we simply end up overstressing ourselves and going backwards. When our muscles work hard, they suffer microscopic damage, they become inflamed, sore and fatigued.  

Resting allows for adaptation and growth to cope with increased physical demands. Over time, this is where all the juicy good stuff happens: muscle growth, increased endurance, fat loss etc. There are many ways to enhance recovery. If you are serious about your progress, you need to develop a game plan that optimizes recovery, just like you do with your workouts. Here are 6 tips to get you started. 

1) Sleep Well

Sleep is your number one friend when it comes to recovery. Your body releases growth hormone (HGH) in pulses while you sleep. This hormone plays a major role in cell repair and tissue regeneration. Poor sleep leads directly to reduced production of HGH, so it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Beyond building into your schedule the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, other ways to improve your sleep quality include avoiding gadget exposure (leave your phone across the room and out of your hands), passing up caffeine before bedtime, and keeping your bedroom temperature cool. 

2) Get Your Nutrition Right 

What you eat today provides the building blocks for your body tomorrow. This always begins with good food. While supplements can play a role, they can’t save you from a poor diet. 

There are many diet alternatives and this is not the place to debate differences. In the end, you need to fuel yourself with protein-rich foods as well as healthy fats and carbs. Regardless of which dietary direction you take you won’t go far wrong if you consume minimally-processed whole foods, like fresh produce, meats, fish, and dairy. Focus on the outer edges of the supermarket and minimize the packaged, processed foods in the center aisles.

3) Active Recovery

Sometimes, the best way to recover is to just chill and let time work its magic. Our body knows how to take care of itself. If being completely at rest, even for a day, makes you feel unproductive, then you can include some active recovery. The idea is to exercise at a mild intensity that won’t cause further fatigue, such as a gentle yoga session, walking, stretching, or an easy bike ride. You need days off in your program where you take it easy, allow your blood to flow, and re-energize your body, mind, and spirit. No grunting in the gym or on the track required.

4) Get in Some Kind Of Massage

Whether it’s soft tissue therapy, foam rolling, or a traditional Thai massage, getting in some kind of massage is great for relieving stiff, tight muscles, which unsurprisingly, also promotes recovery.

5) Take Care Of Your Mental Health

When it comes to recovery, we too often focus on the physical side, while overlooking the mental aspect. We try our best to eat healthy, drink enough water, sleep sufficient hours, and yet we overlook the mental overload we accumulate from day to day, unaware that emotional distress, if left unchecked, will undo all that hard work. A comprehensive recovery plan needs to factor in mental health. It’s important to include a self care routine for your mind to de-stress, whether you meditate, read a book, go for a walk in nature, or relax with friends.

6) Listen To Your Body

The most important thing that you can do is to pay attention to the signals from your body. Listen to your intuition. Everyone reacts differently, even with the same training program, different athletes respond differently. Some days you can power through a tough workout like a boss, other days not so much, and that’s okay. It’s good to avoid comparing yourself with others, or even to the idealized version of what you deem acceptable. Progress isn’t linear, and without proper rest you do yourself a disservice in reaching that better you.