It doesn’t matter how hard/smart you train, if you don’t allow your body to recover you’ll never make gains. Improvements in your body happen during rest NOT in the gym.
Utilizing the below methods will ensure that you’re optimizing your recovery. Remember, it doesn’t matter how hard/smart we train, if we don’t recover we don’t make improvements!
Keep in mind, being sore is a part of high intensity training so the goal isn’t to completely avoid soreness. We simply want to enhance the recovery process and allow your muscles and nervous system to reboot in time for our next workout. Here’s a short list of my favorite recovery methods.
1) Proper Nutrition This one is pretty obvious, but is definitely the most important. Without adequate protein your body simply won’t be able to re-build muscle. Without adequate carbohydrate your body won’t be able to restore glycogen and you will experience increased fatigue in following workouts. To ensure that your macronutrient intake is adequate, be sure to eat nutrient dense foods every 2-3 hours throughout the day if possible.
Post workout meals are crucial for enhanced recovery. Immediately after your workout you should get your first post workout meal in the liquid form. An hour to two hours after your workout you should eat another post workout meal, this time in the solid form. I also recommend taking fish oil and a quality multi-vitamin.
In addition, we must drink enough water and electrolytes to stay hydrated at all times. Water is essential for all human organs. One of the key components to improving explosiveness is fascia health, which is significantly influenced by hydration. Fascia that is well hydrated slides on other fascia and muscle much smoother, while dry fascia becomes sticky. Sticky fascia leads to high friction, which kills our athleticism and leads to injuries.
2) Sleep Most of your muscular development actually happens during sleep. Considering this, one could assume that a lack of sleep would be detrimental to recovery. The general recommendation is 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but I don’t see any harm in aiming for 8-10 hours for highly active individuals.
For athletes that are very busy and cannot get 8 hours of sleep, consider making deductions from the other recovery protocols and allocate that additional time towards sleep. Instead of worrying about foam rolling, icing, etc. SKIP it and go to take a nap. Only use your time on the following recovery protocols if you’re ALREADY getting 8+ hours of sleep.
3) Self Myofascial Release/Foam Rolling Foam rolling multiple times a day is a great way to decrease tissue stiffness, increase flexibility, and push metabolic wastes out of your muscles. Most of your high intensity workouts in this program have foam rolling built into the pre workout section, however, there is no harm in foam rolling at home in front of the TV for a little extra myofascial release.
Foam rolling has acute benefits, meaning the majority of the benefits are short term. For example, foam rolling increases flexibility/mobility, but only for a few minutes NOT permanently. Therefore, I recommend foam rolling BEFORE the dynamic warmup prior to the workout instead of after your workout.
4) Ice Here’s the thing... cryotherapy is popular and so are ice baths. For general health and mental benefits I love both. For performance benefits/recovery, the studies aren’t as convincing. Ice baths and cryo don’t pump metabolic waste out of the muscles; they simply aim to decrease the inflammatory response. The problem is that when it comes to building muscle tissue, we NEED the inflammation response after an exercise session. Some studies suggest that using ice baths/cryo is decreasing certain enzymes that are needed for signaling hypertrophy (muscle gains) after exercise.
If you love ice baths/cryo, it may not hurt you but it probably won’t help you either. However, I do believe it can be beneficial to ice sore joints. For example, if you have patellar tendinitis or other knee soreness it may be a good idea to use an ice pack on the knees after exercise.
5) Contrast Showers Contrast showers can be very effective for increasing circulation. The hot water dilates the blood vessels; the cold water constricts the blood vessels. This dilation/constriction allows the blood vessels to work like a pump to get rid of metabolic waste and circulate blood/nutrients.
Basically this method involves taking a shower while alternating hot and cold water. -Use contrast showers after training and/or several hours after training. -Hop in the shower with an interval timer set OR a clock nearby that you can watch. -Start with 3 minutes in warm water. -Do 1-minute moderately cold water. -Go back to warm water for 3 minutes but this time go even warmer than the first round. -Now go cold again for 1 minute, but even colder than the first round. -Complete 3 cycles of this. Each round make the hot even hotter and the cold even colder. This should be slightly uncomfortable but not to the point that you’re in pain.
6) Mobility Circuits Movement is the key to recovery. We have mobility circuits built into the program, but it doesn’t hurt to do some dynamic mobility and static stretching in the evening. Anytime you feel sore/stiff DON’T just sit around. Move your joints through a full range of motion and you will recover quicker and decrease soreness.
7) Steady State Aerobic Work, I’ve never been the biggest fan of steady state cardio, but it does serve a HUGE role in recovery. The more aerobically fit you are, the faster you can recover between bouts of intense exercise (like fast breaks back into defense). Generally if you’re playing a lot of basketball or other aerobic/anaerobic sports you may not need additional running, but if you aren’t playing 2+ days per week it’s a good idea to get a few days per week of steady state cardio. Get out and jog at a slow pace for 10-20 minutes or hop on a treadmill or stationary bike.
The key here is we don’t want strenuous workouts. To optimize recovery we want light aerobic workouts that get us a good sweat but don’t leave us beat down and completely out of breath. Add your steady state cardio on the low intensity workout days or during the weekend. Aim for 1-3 steady state workouts per week. But remember, if you’re already playing sports you may not need the extra cardio.
8) Listen to Your Body Learning how to listen to your body is one of the best skills and athlete can develop. EVERYONE is different, so sometimes it may take MORE time for you to recover than the program allows for. Sometimes you have to veer off the program and add in extra rest days to suit your needs. Sometimes it’s ok to push past slight muscle soreness but we NEVER push past joint soreness. The moment your joints become sore we have to find another exercise that doesn’t cause pain OR stop the session completely. Sometimes you may end up playing too much basketball in addition to the program, which causes excess fatigue. You must learn how to identify symptoms of overtraining and take extra rest when needed.
9) Breathing/Meditation This is possibly the BEST thing you can do after a workout to prime your body for peak recovery. During workouts our body is in sympathetic mode, which is great for performance but when we stay in the sympathetic mode AFTER the workout we cannot begin the repair process. The body only repairs itself when we’re in the parasympathetic mode, which is our rest/relax state.
Five minutes of belly breathing post workout is HUGE for taking our body out of the sympathetic mode and into the parasympathetic mode. In fact, any time you feel stressed throughout the day, take a step back and do a few minutes of deep belly breathing. Outside stress affects the body in a similar way the physical stress affects the body. That means a test or a relationship issue can cause just as much damage to our nervous system as a hard workout would! The only way to combat psychological stress is to consciously relax and breathe yourself into a relaxed state. The more relaxed athletes are always the most READY athletes come workout/practice/games.