A number of you have asked what you can do to help you recover between sessions at the box. One of the first things I’ll say is listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling sore and tired, hammering yourself further is probably not the best idea. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the saying no pain, no gain? This is bullshit, and needs to be ignored. Push yourself? Undoubtedly. Train through pain? Not a chance. The better you become and listening to your body, the better both your recovery and performance will become.
Before we get to what you should do, let’s consider how much you should do. The short answer is anything is better than nothing. The next step is it should match how much you train. The more you train, the more you need to recover. One of the best analogies I’ve come across for recovery is from Bobby Maximus (the trainer who worked with the actors in 300) who talks about debits and credits.
What are debits: Hard training sessions
What are credits: 8 hours sleep a night
We all need to balance the books for training and recovery in much the same way that we balance our finances. So when considering how much recovery we should do, the more the better. There is no such thing as over-recovery. However not all recovery is equal. The credits above are ordered from most beneficial at the top. That’s not to say walking and foam rolling are not worth doing, but if you’re only getting 4 hours of sleep a night and training 5 days a week, the impact will be negligible.
Although not all recovery is equal, it is important to start and to get some quick wins to help turn them turn in to habits. The below and ones we can all do pretty easily, and will definitely help start balancing the books.
Aim for 8 hours a night, as many nights a week as you can. This could be a blog post all on it’s own, but make the room dark, stay away from blue light before bed and have a good mattress and pillow.
Do you have the opportunity for a day time nap? Take it! I’ll hate you for it as they were one of my favourite things pre-kids, but take it.
This is basically a DIY massage, and done properly can certainly help with muscle soreness. Pre session, you want to work on the muscles that are sore and the ones that you’re going to be using during the session. Focus on any areas that are tight, stiff or need the attention. If you want to foam roll post workout, again just focus on areas that need the attention, don’t just start from the top and work down.
These are the easier option than ice baths (not sure who has a freezer big enough or stacked enough with ice to make this an option?) The idea is that you flush your body by going from cold water which constricts the blood flow to hot which increases it. The number to remember here is 3:1 hot to cold, and ideally for a few cycles of both. Hot is just your normal temperature, there’s no need to baste yourself. Cold should be just that, cold. It’s uncomfortable initially but you get used to it quickly and you’ll soon be back in the hot.
Lots of people talk about active recovery, and then jump on the rower and end up trying to PB their 10km time. Take away the temptation for this and take a stroll. There is a great tube map showing walking times between the stops. Give it a go. London is an incredible city to walk around, make it part of your day.
Eating post workout is important, and most people talk of doing this in a 30 minute window straight after. You want something with both carbs and protein, ideally 4:1. If I’m honest I struggle to eat in this time so I tend to really on protein shakes post workout and then try and eat within 2 hours. Food is important throughout the day however, not just pre and post workout. It’s pointless nailing the post WOD meal if you’ve skipped breakfast and had doughnut for lunch. In terms of what to eat, if it grew naturally or had a face, give it a go. If it didn’t, try and avoid it. If you want more in depth information on nutrition, then you’re better off speaking to our nutrition team about how his programme) can help.
Fluid intake is also very important to your recovery. You can weigh yourself pre and post exercise if you want to get serious with this, or alternatively just monitor the colour of your pee. You want it to be as light as possible. Almost clear? You’re doing it right. Peeing orange juice and so strong it makes your eyes water? Probably time to get some water down your neck sharpish. In terms of how much to drink per day, aim for at least 2 litres. Since most of you are active, 3 is even better. Buy yourself a water bottle and monitor how many you drink each day. If you’re not someone who drinks much you’re going to find yourself peeing constantly as you increase your intake. Stick with it, this will even out.
So many supplements, so little time to consume them all! This is minefield of misinformation and dodgy selling tactics. There are undoubtedly supplements that work and benefit you, but equally plenty that will do nothing other lighten your wallet. If you are going to start taking supplements, try and do it once your confident your diet is good, and not as a way of taking a pill to counter poor nutrition. Currently I don’t take anything, but neither my diet or training are in a place to need them. When I was training consistently and with the right intensity the two I found to be great for me where a good multi-vitamin and a good omega 3 fish oil. Here you really do get what you pay for. If you want to speak to someone with far more knowledge than me on this then try and grab Daine or Eddie next time you see them.
Cut out the drinking
Depending on your social life this could easily fit in the harder things to do category. Drinking post workout is going to impact your recovery, and not in a positive way. If you are going to drink, try not to have too many. If you are getting on it, and I’m going to sound like your Mum here, try and drink a large glass of water every time it’s your round. More often if possible would be even better.
Doing these will definitely have a great impact on your recovery, especially if you build them into your daily and weekly routine. Below are some that take a bit more effort, but can have a great impact too:
This is easier said than done, but limiting the amount of stress you face in your daily life, or how you deal with it will have a huge impact on your recovery. Exercise itself, and especially high intensity exercise is itself stressful, so this doesn’t need to be added to an already stressful life.
I’m certainly not saying don’t get stressed, although it would be wonderful if it was a simple as that, but improving even slightly how we deal with stress will be hugely beneficial. Meditation and mindfulness are two great ways of doing this. If you need some help on how, then Calm and Headspace are two very good apps that will help get your started and keep you in track.
Find a good massage and therapist and hang on to them. Although the science behind the benefits may be limited, anecdotal evidence certainly supports it as do the thousands of athletes who build it into their routine. While the exact effect of the massage may not be proven, not only will you feel better for it, it ties in nicely with stress management too.
Training through niggles/injuries very rarely ends well. When you are carrying an injury, we strongly recommend you get seen by an expert. Most of the coaching team and numerous members use Active Backs in Hammersmith to fix us and keep us moving. They’re busy and you may need to wait for an appointment, but trust us, it’s worth it.
For those of who do own a fridge large enough to store bucket load of ice, then ice baths are an option after very intense sessions. Although the scientific research is again mixed on it’s effectiveness, it’s something that most top athletes and teams make use of. If you want to give it a go. 15 degrees is fine to start, don’t go for colder especially initially. Aim for 6 minutes in the ice bath, and definitely no longer than 10. Try and warm up gradually when you come out with a few towels or joggers, but then jump in the shower to fully warm up.
As odd as it may sound, training is the easy bit, recovery much harder. As with everything don’t try and change everything at once. Picks from the option above methods which you think will work for you and stick with it for a couple of weeks. If that becomes a habit, pick another one. This is a vast subject, so feel free to hit us up with any questions and we’ll try and answer them in recovery part II.