Intense training sessions often result in sore muscles. Affected areas can feel rigid and painful. An integral part of any intelligently designed training program will factor in some protocols for the fastest recovery, so that a new training stimulus can be introduced. Training programs follow the S-R-A curve. First, there is a stimulus (training session), followed by recovery (rest and a therapeutic application), and then an adaptive response (new, usually more intense training session). The key to consistent gains is recovering as quickly and efficiently as possible, so you can once again train as intensely as possible. Here are a few keys to recover best!
8 Hours of Sleep
Adequate rest has a positive effect on the androgenic hormones of our endocrine system. Rest will elevate our human growth hormone and testosterone levels, while minimizing the catabolic stress hormone cortisol. Androgens promote healing and protein synthesis and catabolic states promote the breakdown of proteins. Good rest will clear the brain of metabolic waste, namely beta amyloid plaque. Guess what the best part is? Sleep is free! It’s not a supplement you have to buy and ingest. You simply need to develop good habits around winding down at night and waking up at a specific time. When I see that a private client has not rested well, I back off from training them at higher intensity levels, because I know we are not at optimal hormonal levels. If we train on poor rest, we are courting injury from reduced cognitive capacity.
Foam Rolling and Self Myofascial Release
Foam rolling is an excellent way to help release fatigue caused by the delayed onset of muscle soreness called “The DOMS.” Achy muscles have built up lactic acid, uric acid, and micro-tears. We can feel wobbly walking after an intense squat day. When we use the foam roller we create an environment in the muscles for gas exchange that allow toxins to be picked up by the blood and carried out for excretion. We make the connective tissue matrix around our muscles into a gel state, so that the worked areas relax to their normal length. It’s great to foam roll the areas affected by training, for about 10-15 minutes after your workout or at the end of the day if it’s more convenient.
Ice Baths and Cold Showers
Ice baths and cold showers are fantastic during the acute recovery phase of your recovery. So do them directly after you workout. Contrasting cold/heat therapy is best during the later recovery phase, such as on your off day, or two days after a hard training session. Cold showers and ice baths have been shown to reduce exercise-induced inflammation and help to initiate a positive immune system response as a result of shocking the body with the cold temperature. Wim Hoff is onto something guys! I use contrast therapy on my days off and cold showers after the days I lift heavy at the gym.
Eating Properly for Your Sport
Through structured experimentation and listening for feedback, we must learn what the correct foods are and in what proportions we must consume the primary macronutrients (fats, protein, and carbohydrates) to fit our goals. I know successful professional athletes who only eat one meal per day (Hershel Walker did this for his whole career) and others who would drop dead on this program. We are each unique and our bodies require unique diets. Some folks will thrive on the ketogenic diet, while others would fall apart and see a decline in performance. The key is to practice eating with intentional program design for 40 days, and see how your lab experiment goes. Then make changes, adjustments and tweaks till you find your flow. I have personally tried all the diets out there and have found what fits my lifestyle at this stage. I arrived here by studying the science of digestion and assimilation so that I could weed through the different layers of research that pairs with specific eating plans.
Keeping in motion increases circulation to sore muscles and helps us to recover faster. For example, if I do squats on Monday, I might walk around New York City more on Tuesday instead of using the subway. If I use the subway, I will ride the stationary bicycle at the gym on a lower intensity for 20 minutes to flush the acids from my sore legs. Low-level activity combats the stiffness that comes with high-intensity training. A short hike or a 15-minute swim can work wonders for your health and increase your recovery time so you’re ready for another hard session!
These are a small handful of interesting tips I use, and I hope that they can be of benefit to you. Good luck with your training and recovery!