As a general rule I’ve found that many people who want to get fit or lose weight will focus almost exclusively on their training – and to lesser extent- nutrition programmes. However, if your recovery programme is also managed carefully, you’ll find that you’ll reach your goals far quicker and enjoy the process at the same time. The 3 items that will help you do this are your Post-Workout Recovery, Managing Stress Levels and Establishing Regular Sleep Patterns. Today we’ll focus on ways to recover from a tough workout.
One important thing to understand is that training makes you weaker. The point of training is to give your body a reason to get stronger, and this will only happen in the period between exercise sessions, if your body is allowed to adapt to the demands placed upon it. And that means adequate rest and nutrition.
It’s been said that the most successful athletes are not the ones who train the hardest, but those who recover from training the most effectively. Likewise, I’ve found that my most successful clients are those who regularly use effective recovery strategies.
When you train hard, you deliberately break down muscle fibres and impose a stress on all the systems of the body. So, your body interprets exercise as just another stress that needs to be managed or else it will have negative consequences. The following items will ensure that you recover physically from training:
- Cool down for 5-10 minutes at the end of your workout. A gradual reduction of intensity allows the heart rate to return to normal in a controlled manner and helps flush waste products from the muscles.
- Eat within 20 minutes of your workout. Immediately after exercise, your muscles are screaming for nutrients to replace the fuel that was used in your workout. The sooner you feed the muscles, the quicker they will repair and re-build, and then you will be able to train harder next session. The meal should be a combination of carbohydrates and protein, but if you don’t have access to solid food, a meal replacement drink or whey protein supplement will do the job.
- Don’t train hard more than 3 days in a row. There’s nothing stopping you doing some exercise every day, but it needs to be a mixture of high intensity (weights, circuits, intervals) and low intensity/recovery (walking, stretching, core work). Remember that quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to do 2 or 3 solid sessions per week rather than 5 or 6 mediocre ones.
- Leave 48 hours between weight-training sessions on the same muscle group. You don’t have to leave 48 hours between every training session, just leave that time between doing the same resistance exercises. One way that you can do this is by using split routines. For example, you could train your legs on Monday and then train your upper body on Tuesday. Another option would be to do a whole-body weights programme on Monday followed by a High Intensity Interval Training session on Tuesday.
- Avoid training when sick or injured. Many people find it difficult to ease off training when they’re not feeling well. This is hard to call but a good rule is the saying “Don’t Train if You Can’t Gain”. This means that if you’re unable to improve performance by about 2% on your last workout, then it’s time to take a rest. If you continue to train, you will delay your recovery and slow down your progress in the long term.
- Have Regular Massage. While stretching can be effective, most people don’t use the right techniques and very few individual stretching/flexibility programmes are as effective as massage for restoring full range of motion and reducing muscle soreness. Massage has also been shown to have psychological and stress-reducing benefits.
All of the above items will ensure that you get the most from your training programme and will allow you to reach your fitness goals as quickly as possible. Next time, I’ll focus on why managing your Stress and Sleep patterns is so important.