Recovery is the most overlooked aspect of fitness. If you consider the following equation:
Training = Work + Recovery
You can see why not properly addressing your recovery techniques can be an issue. I know that doing things such as foam rolling, stretching, and hydrotherapy can seem very boring and even somewhat painful, but your increase in fitness and overall health is well worth the small investment. If you are able to push through multiple intense workouts a week, you can definitely handle doing these simple recovery techniques to improve your overall fitness level.
- Contrast Shower: When I played soccer at NC State, we had an entire room dedicated to hydrotherapy. It was required that we spent 10 minutes in the ice bath after every game, and most training sessions, as well. Thankfully, the “ice bath” was actually a very cold hot tub, so we could all fit. However, it wasn’t until I started contrast bathing that I found a lot of benefit out of hydrotherapy for recovery purposes. To do this, I would spend 3 minutes in the cold tub, then 2 in the hot, and repeat the process once more. In ten minutes I would feel legitimately better. You can mimic the same process in the shower. Turn the water on as cold as you can handle, and stand under it for 2 or 3 minutes. Then switch it to hot, and repeat. Do this process for about 10 minutes.
- Foam Rolling: There is a lot of debate over whether or not foam rolling works, but I am a believer due to my personal experience, as well as what I have observed with others. The problem is that no one seems to do it correctly. It is not the actual rolling that helps loosen muscle tissue, but rather the pressure. This means that simply plopping down on the ground and pushing your body around on a foam tube is not going to help. What you need to do is roll until you find a very tight spot, and then spend about 25-30 seconds applying pressure. Roll again until you find another tight spot. For bigger muscle groups such as your glutes, or small spots like your pectoral and shoulder, I like using a softball instead of a foam roller.
- Sleep: In reality, there is no better way to recover than to get your full night’s rest. This means that on a day when you have done a very difficult workout, you need to make a point to get eight hours, minimum, of sleep. I understand this can be hard, but shooting for that number can completely change the way you feel the day after a workout. Also, if you are trying for eight and are just coming up a few minutes short, say 7 and ½ hours, you are still getting some solid rest each night. Your body also releases growth hormone while you sleep, so in a way, sleep is like steroids. Use it.
Additionally, this article which I posted on Friday goes into detail about some good recovery techniques I haven’t mentioned here, and how to utilize them. I also really love Gym Jones’s analogy to financial management for recovery. It is also detailed in that article. Change your recovery and watch your fitness gains improve this week.