It's also why I may or may not pretend I'm Vegeta whenever I take an ice bath.
I explain the stressor/recovery/adaptation cycle at length in this post but...
In order for physical training to bring about consistent results, the body needs to recover so that it can maintain high-intensity training. Without proper attention to recovery, physical performance stagnates and implodes.
Intense training is impossible without disciplined recovery.
How do I recover?
I like to use the acronym MEDS with athletes I coach because it breaks down the word “recovery,” which eerily sounds like you’re in rehab, into simple steps:
Mobilize, Eat, Drink, Sleep.
As Kelly Starrett of mwod fame states in his book Becoming a Supple Leopard, training and the mundanities of daily life will cause temporary limits in mobility. For example, sitting for long periods of time can make the hip flexors adaptively short and limit hip extension. After a long day of shortening your hip flexors in your chair or car, you may not be able to hit the bottom position of the squat so well. That’s why we mobilize.
You can pick your own favorite drills for your problem areas, but my top three are the banded couch stretch, barbell rolling on the shoulder, and the SAM drill (unfortunately no longer on youtube.)
You’ll need a foam roller and a lacrosse ball in your arsenal. Any kind of roller will do, but I LOVE my rumble roller. It looks and feels like a Medieval torture device. If that’s not your thing or you need a low-budget option, purchase a cheap $10 roller on Amazon or buy a 4” diameter schedule 40 PVC pipe from Home Depot for $5 and wrap it in a yoga mat.
Cold and hot water therapy falls under "mobility" as well since it reduces inflammation, which in turn mitigates mobility-limiting soreness. Contrast showers (1 minute freezing cold followed by three minutes very hot, repeated 3+ times) over the entire body can become your new way of showering for a daily inflammation management tool. I also encourage ice baths before competitions or once every month for the hard-training individual.
I’m not breaking any new ground on this one, but athletes chronically underestimate how many calories and how much protein they consume. Your body needs the calories and protein to repair itself from heavy training. At least 18 calories and 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight are your minimum goals. A 180# athlete would want to eat 3240 calories and 180 grams of protein, every day, at a bare minimum.
In martial arts athletes cutting weight, a 1% decrease in hydration results in a 2% decrease in speed. Even if everything else in your recovery repertoire is on point, being dehydrated will smoke you every time. Buy a 32 oz water bottle and keep it filled all day. Your target is a gallon to a gallon and a half.
Jim Wendler, renowned powerlifter and author, describes the daily routine he follows when preparing for a big competition. Combining the elements above with copious amounts of sleep, it basically sounds like the life of a baby living inside a grown man. Train hard, eat a ton, drink a lot, take a nap, eat a ton, eight-plus hours of sleep.
People who otherwise train hard can somehow find excuses for not sleeping enough. For optimal results, you need to discipline yourself to get as close to, or ideally over, eight hours of sleep every night.
I don’t care how hard you train in the gym. When you’re doing it consistently and with specific goals in mind, recovery becomes extremely important.
In the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle, recovery is where the results happen. So when you think about it, recovery is training.
This concludes the Zero to Hero series. Read these four posts, or encourage your friends to, and you'lll be more than ready to hit the weights and get strong. Read this series and you'll have a better working knowledge of strength training than the majority of personal trainers across America.