Gday folks, its Coach Mike here from Recovery Systems, Today We’re going to be talking about how you can ensure that you’re locking in the gains and are ready for your next training session. You should understand that your training has provided the stimulus to make you a better athlete. But all those gains are going to be realized during your recovery. If you are recovering properly from your training session, then that’s going to allow you to go out and train to provide that stimulus again. The key to improving as an athlete is being able to provide a consistent training stimulus so that your body can adapt and improve as you progress through your training calendar. And whilst the training stimulus is important, your body’s ability to recover between sessions will in the long-term dictate how far you progress as an athlete.
Today’s is really a self-help guide to show you methods to help your body recover. So, let’s dive in and look at some of the simple recovery strategies you can integrate into your training program and make sure you stay through to the end because we’ve got a real surprise for you guys.
Now let’s start with something simple. I want you to think about when you’re exercising, your muscles work under a cycle of contracting and relaxing to produce movement. But the body is not a perfect machine, and sometimes, after a lot of repeated efforts, the relaxation doesn’t happen fully, and you’re left with some parts of the muscle which is still contracted. Our aim for full recovery is to make sure these are completely relaxed back to their normal tone.
Recovery Tip 1.
Stretch – It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that one of the simplest ways that we can help our body recover is by stretching the muscles that have been involved in the exercise. Stretching is as simple as applying a tension over the muscles to help encourage the muscles to relax completely. Now let’s not overcomplicate stretching. It’s such a simple thing to do. Find the stretch that feels like it’s targeting the muscle that you’re after and then apply that stretch in small bouts done frequently. Look for ways to introduce stretching into your day-to-day routine. It may be as simple as doing calf stretches whilst you’re talking on the telephone or you may like to attack this in a more structured way through a yoga or Pilates class, or a stretch clinic. (I’m not paid to say this but I find these guys are great: https://www.thestretchclinic.com/sg/
Recovery Tip 2.
Release – For most us who train and compete in sports that involve the same ROM (range of motion) muscle shortening occurs. Enter the evil Foam roller in its various forms – If you really want to target specific areas of the muscle, well, I think foam rollers are your friend and partner to gains. With a foam roller, you really be able to find those tender and tight parts of your muscle, and just by gently rolling backwards and forwards, you can feel the muscle relax. Remember that key to foam rolling is slow and steady. It should be painful, but you’re only going to be there for a short period of time. It should take you less than two minutes to roll out any particular muscle. Again, avoid bony prominences when you’re rolling. That’s just going to make it unnecessarily painful, and you’re not going to get any benefit from rolling over those. If you really struggling with the foam roller, you could try something like the stick. Now the stick is a really effective way to self-massage those muscles. And again, you can find those tight spots and work backwards and forwards over them. I like the stick, particularly for traveling because it’s much easier to pack than a big bulky foam roller. Again, the same principles apply. Find the tight spots, apply the pressure, and roll backwards and forwards until you feel the muscle relax underneath the stick. A more modern approach to muscle release is the massage gun, these come in too many form factors to mention these days, essentially these are Percussive therapy devices, such as the Theragun, vibrate at a specific frequency and amplitude touted to help loosen these cross-bridges. Proponents of percussive therapy devices claim they can also boost blood flow, break up scar tissue, and increase collagen uptake. I personally like the Theragun because of the ergonomically shaped 3-sided handle which makes it easy to use and easy to reach different points of the body.
Recovery Tip 3.
Massage – a good sports masseuse is worth their weight in gold. This modality has some similarities to the percussive gun with the breaking down of scar tissue and lengthening of the muscles. Best to schedule this session during your recovery week as you are probably going to be worse before you get better.
Recovery Tip 4.
Contrast Therapy – You can also look at fast-tracking your recovery by using contrast showers or ice baths. A contrast shower Involves going from a hot shower to a cold shower. This is going to force your blood vessels to vasodilate or open up and then rapidly vasoconstrict or close down. This produces a pump within the muscle to help flush out all the metabolic wastes and encourage new blood flow in there. To get the most out of a contrast shower, sit under the hot for 90 seconds. This is because it takes longer for your body to vasodilate and then switch rapidly to a cold shower and stay there for 30 seconds. You can alternate between 90 seconds of hot, 30 seconds of cold, and you might run through four or five cycles of this. You’ll feel the benefits as soon as you step out of the shower. A quick tip: always finish on a hot cycle. The next step up from this is a rotation between a spa pool, plunge pool at around 8c, spa pool, sauna then repeat. Acclimatizing to the cold water and spending at least 5 mins per cycle is a great way (along with the hot contrast) to accelerate toxin removal and recovery gains. A note on ice – I’ve never been a fan of ice for recovery as it delays inflammation which is the first phase of healing, recovery and gains. Ice can mitigate muscle gains. On the other hand, ice for trauma such is experienced in contact sports like rugby or fighting sports, is totally appropriate for internal bleeding control and pain relief.
Recovery Tip 5.
Compression – the concept of compression is to speed up blood flow, a very common modality for sports people is a compression sock. These typically are in the pressure range between 6 and 20 mmhg and have the limitation in that they are static pressure i.e. they hold the limb rather than squeeze and release in a pulsing or milking action and therefore have limited use.
Pneumatic intermittent compression, commonly known as leg compression boots operate at a much higher-pressure range when compared to compression socks. Typically, this range is 100 to 240 mmhg of pressure and works in a pulsing or milking action from the foot upwards. Intermittent compression has been used in the medical world for more than 30 years to treat swelling symptoms resulted from a number of underlying medical conditions.
Aside from faster removal of waste products and delivery of fresh nutrients for faster healing and recovery, it also can improve joint awareness, movement efficiency, and more importantly a reduction of soreness, getting you ready for action again, sooner. Most importantly, the recovery process can be done any time at the comfort of your home.
The pulsing or milking action has 2 phases, firstly the Squeeze Phase effectively mimics the body’s natural recovery, greatly enhancing the movement of fluid and waste out of the limbs after an intense workout of competition. The active compression helps move blood through your veins towards your heart. The continuous squeeze or compression phase from the lower limbs to upper limbs lasts around 1 minute effectively keeps the fluid moving in the right direction.
Secondly The release phase of around 20 seconds promotes the natural release of substances in your body that help prevent clots. Between compressions, the leg recovery boots relax, and oxygen-rich blood continues to flow in the arteries of your legs. Essentially, it speeds up recovery by accelerating the transport of fresh nutrients back to the muscles to speed up healing, recovery and gains.
Pneumatic intermittent compression is also a great way to bio hack your warm up, with 10 mins on the boots bringing your muscle oxygen up to what it would normally take 30 to 40 mins of physical movement – see here for details Data supporting intermittent compression for warmup and recovery:
A side benefit of the flushing effect of intermittent compression is that many report that they fall asleep during a recovery session. This is the body going into Rest and digest healing mode as the parasympathetic healing system is activated. Many report that overall general sleep quality improves after treatment, which is in itself is gold.
Recovery Tip 6.
Sleep – sleep is the bodies #1 recovery modality and it makes sense to monitor and adapt to improve sleep quality. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Pneumatic intermittent compression has a big fan base aside from recovery of for improving both naps and general sleep quality, here are some other of my findings and tips gathered over the years. Keeping regular sleep and wake times rising around sunrise with 7 to 9 hours of total sleep is a great formula. Sleeping 10pm to 6am is better than 12 midnight to 8am, it’s the hours before midnight that are important! Awaking at Sunrise and getting some sunshine is also important to set your bodies circadian clock.
Your Bedroom should be a cool, quiet and dark place, if it can’t be dark and quiet then a good sleep mask and earplugs is recommended.
Much has been written about not having TV or devices in the bedroom as they emit emf, I do have these devices in the bedroom but I sleep with an earthing matt under the bedsheet, I tracked my sleep quality for 8 weeks after implementing this and there was a notable improvement to both deep sleep and REM numbers.
A cold shower before bed can also help to bring your bodies core temperature down to prepare for sleep, particularly if you have been training in the evening, this could save you from a restless night. Many people do have difficulty regulating their bodies heat during sleeping and one solution (which I am about to personally implement) a cooling pad which is a cold therapy device is designed for and effectively thermal regulates the body throughout the night. By circulating water through the mattress pad, activity testing and maintaining the desired temperature throughout the night, sleep quality and quantity is improved. The simplicity of using cold therapy to manage and mitigate body thermogenesis throughout the night may make this an ideal solution, the sleep quality numbers will ultimately confirm this. Clean and good quality Bed linen quality can make a difference also. If you haven’t or aren’t managing to sleep effectively, it may be wise to back off your training stress until you have addressed it – Afterall, training makes you worse and recovery makes you better, nailing all aspects of your recovery will lock in those hard earned gains!
Nutrition, nutrition timing and fasting are also highly important for recovery and performance, these are big topics I’ll cover in a future post.
So, these are my top 6 tips, I find that taking one or 2 ideas and implementing them for at least 40 days is a great way to positively change habits.