Getting Active and Optimal Recovery Ideas
Everyone I know is busy and they’re trying to get the most out of the training/exercise/activity they do on a daily basis. Some people are preparing for events or races and others are just doing life and hoping to get the most out of what they do each day. What I’ve found over the last 30 years of coaching athletes though is that the training people do is only the potential for performance improvement. What really dictates the % of performance improvement people get from the training they do is governed by the recovery they are able to achieve outside of that training.
If you’re just getting back to being active then understand that you want to stress your body a bit at a time and let it respond to that stress so you improve gradually and feel better and better about going longer and harder. There’s no rush. If you push the process you aren’t going to enjoy it very much. All your workouts shouldn’t be easy, or you won’t improve, but they don’t need to be miserable either. If you’ve been consistent with your training and exercise and you’re looking to get more out of your workouts to get to the next level then these ideas can help you too.
To get better you need to recover better. It’s relatively easy to just put your head down and go hard. But what you do for an hour or two each day in your exercise is not as important as what you do in those other 22-23 hours of the day, every day, day after day. The more elite or high level you are in your sport obviously the more important the amount and quality of your exercise/activity is. The nutrition and recovery aspects that we discuss below are important for sure. But for most people, the results they are going to get from their activity are way more governed by what they do outside their training than what they do in their training. You can have a great training session but if you eat garbage the rest of the day and don’t take care of yourself then you likely won’t see the results you’re hoping for.
I’ve found there are 4 main factors that influence that recovery…
There’s a ton of info online about how to sleep better so I’m not going to go into detail on that here. GTS (Google That Stuff) and you’ll find plenty of info to help guide you. Here are the big things I focus on though when I’m interested in maximizing sleep (amount and quality).
- Create a cool environment to sleep. If your room is hot and humid and you aren’t comfortable then getting max sleep is going to be hard.
- Reduce activity and stimulation before bed. Quiet the music and most importantly reduce the use of your cell phone and the associated blue light from it. You can use an app on your phone that changes the hue/color to help lower the impact your phone use has before bed.
- Alcohol may seem like it helps you get to sleep quicker but usually it leads to a lower quality of sleep and you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night.
- Speaking of waking up at night, hydration is important but if you drink too much water too late in the day you’ll be waking up at night to empty your bladder. More on this in the hydration section.
Natural sleep aids like melatonin, Valerian or even CBD can be useful to help your body get to sleep quicker and stay there. Practice with what works for you to increase your sleep quality. Blue Rub has some great products that will set your body up for better sleep by helping your muscles relax and recover faster.
Our body is 55-60% water for adults (higher for kids) and we need that hydration level to have our body work properly at a metabolic level. However not everyone likes plain water and for some it’s the associated chlorine (taste and smell). I really don’t like the smell or taste of chlorine, and I don’t like the thought of that and other chemicals in my body. I’ve invested in a whole home water filter and I love not having to deal with chlorine etc. Investing in a simple carbon filter (like a Brita etc) can help capture that chlorine and make water better tasting for you. That can really help.
Water is so important for helping your body function effectively. just a 2-3% decrease in hydration can decrease your strength and speed by 8-10%. It’s important!!!
One way you can better hydrate your system is to add in some simple electrolytes to your water intake. Pink ground sea salt is inexpensive and creates a better osmotic balance in your body than drinking plain water all the time. Your body needs those trace element building blocks to function best so make sure you get them in. You’ll find you stay hydrated better too and you won’t have to pee as often. It doesn’t take much salt to do the trick. 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per bottle of water should work well. Just don’t use white iodized table salt.
People often wonder how much water is enough to drink each day. It’s going to be different based on your activity level, the environment you live in etc. I like to use a half an ounce of water per pound of goal ideal lean body weight as a starting point. So a person who’s goal weight is 160lbs would shoot for 80 ounces through the day. Try your best to get more of that water into your system earlier in the day so that you aren’t bringin in too much before going to bed at night. Otherwise it will affect your sleep quality as you have to wake up to go to the restroom.
This is a tough one to get under control. Understand that there are really only a few things you can control. The time and energy we spend worrying about things we can’t control is huge. I’m not saying don’t think about them at all and not to do what you need to to be prepared.
However, once you’ve thought about the issue, planned your response to If/When it happens then move on. In racing my athletes can only control how hard they go (their output), their fuelling (their input) and their attitude to the events of the day. Everything else that is going to happen deserves a response when it happens, but those aren’t things you can control. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Deal with them when they happen and think about how that’s going to play out but understand that most stress is caused by things we can’t control.
Other areas of stress management are actually in how your muscles respond to exercise. You’re in GREAT hands with Blue Rub through their array of amazing creams and lotions to help protect your skin and also to help it recover from the abuses of your sports as fast as possible. If you’re uncomfortable and sore that’s going to lead to stress and that’s not going to lead to better recovery. Don’t neglect your skin!!!
This is the biggest area people have complete control over and I think it has the most impact on your performance gains. You decide what you do or don’t put in your body each day. Your nutrition (including what you eat and drink) dictates primarily how you respond to the training you do. You’ve likely heard the phrase “Abs are Made in the Kitchen”. Your training plan can be amazing and you could hit every workout perfectly, but if your fuelling and nutrition strategy sucks then so will the results of your training.
Here’s the way I explain training to people. Training breaks your body down, it never builds you up. Training is just the potential for performance improvement. Then I ask - What % benefit do you want to get from your training? What you put in your body and how you recover from that training is going to determine what you get out of the training. The training doesn’t determine your performance improvement. The recovery does. The primary means of recovery is thru the building blocks of food you give yourself when you’re NOT training.
Ask yourself what % benefit you want from your training….
Want 50% Recovery? Then train hard but eat crap foods afterwards.
Want 75% Recovery? Train hard and eat healthy (which for most people just means avoiding crap foods).
Or if you Want 100% Recovery then Train less but get optimal nutrition and recovery from ingesting those key nutrients and building blocks into your body. I can usually reduce someone’s workload/training by 50% and still give them a 25% increase in performance just by helping them add better quality nutrition into their system. They can work out harder more often but do less overall volume. Saves time and gets them better results.
Nutrition is also key to support a healthy immune system which is so important to avoid illness and be able to stay consistent with training. That consistency of good nutrition and training is what develops exceptional long term benefits.
Unfortunately I find the food we have available to us today in grocery stores and restaurants to be very poor quality (at best) and downright bad for us (at worse). I still shop in grocery stores and eat out at restaurants but I don’t make the mistake of thinking any of that is supporting my health. I turn to superfood systems in the form of shakes and supplements to give my body what it needs for optimal nutrition and then use food as the fun part of my day. In the end that saves me a LOT of time and money and gets me the best results I could hope for. I use a superfood system that you can find out more about here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1800793193399951).
Ask to join and say Steve sent you when it asks who referred you. Look around and you’ll find out a lot about the different options I’ve gravitated to for optimal health and benefits. Feel free to reach out to me at my contact info below for more info - I’d love to help you experience what these systems can do for you too.
Bottom line is you are in control of the work you get to do to create that potential improvement, and you are also in control when it comes to how you benefit from that training work. Make the right choices and you’ll get faster and better results and enjoy the process along the way. Remember, something might work for you, but if you aren’t achieving those results in a healthy way then the results are likely to be temporary.
ABOUT STEVEN BENTLY
Steve has been coaching triathletes since 1990 and have helped people race in over 1400 IM races around the world and 1000s of shorter distance events and marathons. He has a wide range of experience working with a very wide range of abilities and people to help you reach your goals.
Learn more about Steve at Performance Coach