Recovery as not as hard as you make it out to be.
It’s also not as expensive.
It’s also not as time-consuming.
It also don’t require as much thought, equipment, or focus as we see on social media.
I know I say this all the time, and, if you ready my blog or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you are probably tired of me playing this song on repeat, but…
The basics always work.
When in doubt, work backward instead of looking for more.
Consider what is missing from your recovery instead of what you can add to it.
Most of the time, it’s more simple, straight-forward, and staring-you-in-the-face as you think it is.
Don’t chase what sounds interesting, exclusive, or elite.
Most of the time, you either don’t actually need it (99% of us don’t train at the elite athlete level and require that kind of care) or they don’t even work (think the supplement rage, super hyped mobility tools, expensive therapies, etc).
For my athletes - yes, even those at D1 and professional levels - we focus on FOUR recovery tools that are free and accessible.
Until they are consistently maximizing all of those four facets, we don’t talk about adding other tools and tricks into the mix.
If they max out those four thing and adjusting the volume/frequency of their training load hasn’t improved their recovery after consistent implementation, then we look to additional resources.
I can say in all honesty that, in the last two years, I have recommended additional recovery therapies to ONE White Lion athlete; she is in a brutal rehab phase, has trouble sleeping due to discomfort, and we are working against the clock to get her healthy again, so she needed some more manpower.
Alright, you get the point.
Here are my four keys to Recovery:
Get in the bed.
This should go without saying!
The scientific community has dumped a lot of time and money into proving that humans need a consistent 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
YES, that includes athletes!
In fact, athletes undergo all kinds of physical stress. Training is literally breaking down your body in certain, calculated ways in order to make it stronger and faster when it heals.
Hello, you need to SLEEP!
I wrote a monster article on how sleep is the best prehab program you could ever implement… it’s also the best rehab and recovery program.
Get in the bed for about 8 hours a night. Make it a massive priority in your life, even if you have to work, study, travel, etc.
Yes, I understand that it’s not always realistic. Get as much uninterrupted, optimal sleep per night as you can. Try to squeeze in a 10-20min nap during the day, if you can.
Better yet, track your sleep when snoozing, so you can get an idea of how your body cycles, when and in what conditions you should sleep (I swear by the Pillow app for iPhone).
Let your body heal itself. It does a damn good job!
Drink some fluids.
Water is essential for life. You can only live for a few days without water.
Sorry, but you aren’t a camel.
The truth is, many of us are dehydrated and we don’t notice (especially in winter!).
We also know that mild dehydration (even at about 2%) can reduce cognitive and physical performance. Keep in mind how much you sweat out during training and push out of your body otherwise; you can lose literal POUNDS of water during training or competition.
If you don’t replenish that, it doesn’t leave you in a very good position to recover optimally.
It’s actually hard to consume too much fluids, and very easy to hinder your performance by not drinking enough.
To play it safe, you need about 3L of water (or similar) per day as an athlete, more when it’s hot and you are working at a high intensity across a long time. Federation and athlete health organizations provide a lot of information on how to handle this.
If you don’t like water, drink tea, lemon water, juice, Gatorade… but just drink SOMETHING!
Eat (enough) real food.
Calories = energy.
There’s not a calorie or food type that is inherently bad.
Not a carb, not a sugar, not a fat.
Sure, food that is filled with chemicals and heavily processed are far from optimal, especially for athletes who need nutrients to recover properly. Throw those in the trash (if you can afford; let’s keep in mind that food can be expensive, even though Instagram claims you can eat Keto for under $3/month if you’re just REALLY responsible with money).
At the end of the day, a calorie is just energy. It’s not even and it’s nothing more than that, a fuel source for your energy!
Make sure you’re replacing your energy with an appropriate amount of calories. Make sure there is plenty of protein and vegetables in your diet, and go from there. A nutritionist, dietician, or coach with a nutrition background can really help you narrow down what exactly you need.
What happens to a Ferrari that isn’t fueled enough? It dies on the interstate going over the speed limit, and now you’re embarrassed and potentially about to get side-swiped by a semi. Congrats.
What happens to a Ferrari that isn’t fueled on the right kind of gas? What if you put diesel in there and it only takes regular? Guess your engine is going to go out and hurt your bank account’s feelings a lot sooner than you expected.
The same is true with food. Make sure you are consuming enough of the right kind of fuel to continue performing and to recover from it.
Do something else.
Stop thinking about training and performing all the time.
Focusing on one thing is not positive. Life is not single-dimensional. Get more things in your visual pathway.
You’re stressing yourself out. Stress isn’t good for the body.
Find something else to do. Another hobby. A favourite show. Read a book or listen to a podcast. Try something new. Go hang out with your friends. Go dance. Take your (or your friend’s) dog for a walk.
Just do something else. The more experiences you are collecting outside of sport, the happier you will be to come back to sport. You’ll appreciate being at training and stop resenting that you have to focus on it all the time.
Just enjoy life. Eat your food. Get your sleep. Drink some water. Moisturize. Laugh.
Appreciate that being an athlete is amazing, pressure is a privilege, pain will pass, and there’s more to life than just struggling in the gym.
If you need a deload or a day off, that’s okay. Take it, focus on nailing these four things down PAT, and get back to business. Get it taken care of.
That’s how you recover and come back for more.
Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439-58.