The Art of Recovery

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Why recover?

We talked about this a bit in The Skills of a Saiyan Warrior, but we’re going to go into detail more, here.  Recovery is literally when you become stronger.  Giving your muscles a chance to heal and repair themselves into more functional versions of what they were before.  Giving your neuromuscular connections to build more efficient synaptic paths for accessing and firing those muscle fibers.  It is, quite literally, the most important part of any fitness program, and it’s what we’re going to go over, today.  This is going to be a short, sweet, to the point post, because recovery should be simple to understand, and easy to perform.  You don’t want something complex and difficult when you’re feeling sore!

The Foundation: Rest

Every good workout program should feature ample amounts of rest.  First off, getting plenty of sleep is key.  You should be getting a minimum of six hours, but preferably more than that, every single night.  You may find, after a particularly hard day of training, that even more sleep might serve you well.  Listen to your body, and give it the sleep it needs!  I promise, whatever is keeping you up at night can wait until another day.

The other thing to consider is rest periods for muscle groups.  Muscle fibers take a minimum of 24 hours to repair and heal, moreso as you get older, or as the activity becomes more extreme (sometimes ultra-endurance and strength athletes can take more than a week to return to full functionality after competing.)  Giving yourself at least 24 hours between working any given muscle group gives it time to heal.  Additionally, I’d recommend at least one full active rest day for your whole body, every week.

The Building Blocks: Nutrition

Nutrition is the next most important thing when it comes to recovery.  Keeping your protein intake up for rebuilding, carbs for refueling, and fats for hormone synthesis are all incredibly important.  You want to look into high quality sources of nutrition, namely whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and fats that are high in omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.  Fish is fantastic, as is chicken breats, lean cuts of beef, and tofu.  Dark green vegetables are also very good, like broccoli, spinach, and cabbage.  Brown rice, whole grain pasta, and whole fruits are good sources of fiber and carbohydrates.  Finally avocado, nut butters, oily fish (yep, fish is here twice,) flax seed, and coconut oil are all great, high quality sources of fat.

For an overall nutrition outline, check out Macros and You!  For more specific goals, look into The Secret to Burning Fat, The Secret to Building Mass, and Losing Weight is Not a Side Quest.

The Super Boost: Active Recovery

On rest days, you shouldn’t be just laying around doing nothing.  Yes, I said rest is key, however being completely inert isn’t going to help you at all.  Instead, you should look into active recovery.  What is active recovery?  Great question!  Generally speaking, active recovery can be any low impact, low intensity activity that is a couple notches below your workout.  On my active recovery days I may go for a walk, or I’ll do a low-weight, low-rep variant of my weightlifting workout.

Don’t feel up to that, or not sure what to do?  Then just run through My Warm Up Routine, and then follow it up with My Cool Down Routine.  It should take you less than twenty minutes, and you’ll feel like a million bucks.  You can also look into low intensity yoga, and myofascial release options like foam rolling or massage therapy.

Icing on the Cake: The Quirky Stuff

Here we’ve got a couple things you can do to aid recovery that definitely help, but should be approached only AFTER you’ve got the other areas covered.

Supplements

Obviously, whey protein falls in this category, and it helps you hit your macro goals.  You do have other supplement options too, though! BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) taken before a workout session can increase energy levels and decrease recovery time.  A lot of people swear by them.  Also, creatine performs a similar function, giving you more energy and assisting with energy delivery to muscles (even when they’re repairing during recovery.)

Contrast Baths

Contrast baths can definitely help particularly sore muscles recover faster.  There’s still research being done on exactly how effective they are, but I swear by them.  Fill up a large container with hot water (not so hot you burn yourself,) and a container with cold (all the way down to near-freezing, if you can stand it.) Soak the body parts you worked that day in the hot for three minutes, then switch IMMEDIATELY to the cold for one minute (or for as long as you can stand.) Repeat 4-5 times. Always start with hot, and end with cold!

De-Stress

Excess stress can cause your body to release too much cortisol, which inhibits muscular growth.  This obviously runs counter to driving efficient muscular recovery, so you want to make sure you keep the stress in your life at manageable levels.  Check out my article on how I deal with stress here!

 

That’s it!  Remember, the recovery phase is the most important part of your training!  Don’t neglect it!  I’ll see you again on Monday with a new character post!  (Patrons can go check the post out here!)  Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!

The Best Dan Wallace

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