I would like to take the time to slow it down a bit and talk about a very important and crucial aspect of getting us on track to our fitness goals. I am talking about recovery. Recovery is defined as: restoration or return to any former and better state or condition. If you are working out and hitting it hard it is absolutely essential to get proper rest and restore your body to its better condition. I am a trainer and one of the things I get asked all the time when I meet someone new and tell them what I do is: How many hours a day do I work out? and how many days a week? They automatically assume since I am in great shape that I workout 4 to 5 hours a day everyday. They could not be more wrong. In all honesty, I hit the gym 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about 45 minutes. I have learned in my ripe young years that less is more.
I have recently changed my training protocol due to the suggestion of a good friend. Usually on Mondays I am feeling really good due to my abundance of sleep and calories over the weekend so I use to work out really hard with weights, cardio, and body weight training. Just kill it. The problem with this was I would workout too hard and end up destroying my body the rest of the week and would not be able to go again until Friday. Currently, on Mondays I do a lot of high heart, cardio interval training. Just enough to get the heart rate and breathing rate up and get the body moving. Wednesdays I do all plyometric and body weight exercises. Jumps, push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, battling ropes, etc. On Friday, I stick with the traditional old school lifting protocol. Heavy as I can go with squats, dumbbell press, weighted pull ups, deadlifts, shoulder press and rows. This plan has been working fabulously for me. I have more energy the whole week and I am not beat down. Part of the reason is also my recovery.
You can not train hard every day and expect results. Let me repeat this for those of you who missed it: You can NOT train hard every day and expect results. If you are training hard with high intensity you need your rest. If you keep going and going your body never has a chance to recover, restore and improve. You have to think of your recovery as your muscle building phase. Your body is actually getting stronger on your off days than during your workout. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments are tediously and intricately repairing themselves from the heavy stress you put them through. Without proper rest and recovery, your body never has a chance to improve and get to a better conditioned state.
How and the way you recover is hugely beneficial to your body improving and becoming better. I am a big fan of listening to your body and knowing when to say when. On the days you feel great, get after it, train hard and punish your body. On the days you are tired, sore, sluggish and unenergized do not push it. Maybe go for a light walk or hike or do a couple of exercises to limber up and stretch out. On my off days, I always go for a walk outside and get some warm sunshine. For every hard day you exercise make the next day an easy day. One day on, one day off. Your body will thank you for it.
Now lets talk about different ways and what we can do to recover.
- Sleep. Hands down the best way to let your body recover. Sleep is where all the magic happens. The microscopic tears in your muscles rebuild, the body flushes out all the lactic acid and the rest of your tissues get their much needed dose of oxygen. Most of us do not sleep enough, let alone after a hard training day. I would highly recommend aiming for 7-8 hours of good, uninterrupted and unmedicated sleep.
- Foam Roll. Maybe you know what these are, maybe you have seen them laying around at the gym or at someone’s house or maybe not. A foam roller is a 3 foot long foam cylinder used to help eliminate trigger points from your body. It is designed for you to use your own body weight to push down and massage you muscles. Next time you see one grab it, lay face down and roll back and forth on your quads making sure not to go over your knees. Try to find any spots that are sore or hurting. The great spots to cover are your quads, your butt, your hamstrings, calves and lower back. Any spot that is extremely painful and super sensitive needs the most attention. If you can only tolerate a few seconds on an area then that area needs the most work.
- Massage. If you have the luxury to afford a massage once a week then by all means do it. For me I try to aim for hopefully at least once a month. We all know the benefits of massage and how great we feel after we are done. There is something uniquely special about the human contact and energy transfer and release. If you have not had a massage in awhile make an appointment at a local day spa.
- Hydrate. Hydration is greatly beneficial for recovery because it helps flush the body of all its toxins. Our muscles are made up of 80% water and we are chronically dehydrated anyways so drinking a few extra bottles of water will definitely help with the recovery process.
- Clean Eating. If you are trying to recover then you do not want to pollute your body with any more processed, man made toxins. My definition of clean eating is no processed food. Eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meat. Do not add more junk to your system that you are trying to flush out. Keep it clean and keep it simple.
Remember every aspect of your training is equally important. It is necessary to have balance in your training to achieve great results.