Recovery is an essential factor when it comes to training and performance. How you do it is the difference between maximal or average strength development. However, most often, recovery is brushed-off and ignored. You deserve recognition and praise for training hard. On the contrary, don't destroy all your hard work by overtraining. Although strength training is important to develop, it creates a deficit. How you handle the recovery deficit determines how fast and how much strength will enhance and improve. The body becomes stronger by repairing to rebuild itself during recovery days. Just like strength training has a routine, recovery needs one as well.
The 6 R's of Recovery
The nervous system is the same as your computer operating system. It controls everything in the system to function. In the body, there are many processes involved with the nervous system. It needs to rebuild and recode the entire system to function and perform effectively at a higher capacity and level. It takes about 4-5 days to fully repair and restore the nervous system after high-intensity training or stimulus. For seasoned athletes, it can be less because the body has already adapted to the training. As a beginner or intermediate, your body is still learning how to adapt, so rebuilding takes more time.
For muscles, it only takes about 3-4 days for a full recovery. Muscles have a quicker recovery because of their direct connection to the cardiovascular system and blood flow. Again, recovery can be more or less if you are an experienced athlete or not. However, if your muscles are sore from training, wait till the soreness goes away to train again. Soreness means your muscles are still repairing, and training while sore disrupts the recovery process.
As your body learns how to recover, it becomes stronger and does it faster through adaptation. If you continue to beat-up your body, especially at a high-intensity, it does not learn how to rebuild and repair to recode your strength properly, and therefore, leads to subpar strength potential. The body needs to know how to repair itself. If you don't let it, it cannot create an efficient nor effective system to improve your strength and speed.
How much training you do will determine how much you should recover, high-level athlete or not. Generally, anything lower than 75% can be done every day or every other day. As you hit higher intensities, rest days and times need to be extended.
- 75%-85%- 2-3 days of rest,
- 85-95%- 4-5 days of rest and,
- 95% -100%- 5 or more days of rest.
For example, from making max sprints, you should rest about five days or more. It does not mean stop sprinting. It just means the use of lower intensities. Another example is eccentric focused training. As you become proficient with eccentric training, you don't become as sore overtime and only need to do it once a week or every other week. Also, eccentric training produces higher and longer strength adaptations. For example, I can miss two weeks of training and still return to the gym just as strong and fast. But, if your eccentric training all the time, you will not get the benefit and stay sore. Understand, training too hard or intensely without the proper recovery will not allow you to reach max strength potential because of limiting recovery. Without recovery, you limit the capability to rebuild and recode the nervous and muscular system to be stronger. And, through this limitation, it stunts your ability to lift more weight or run faster as well as evolve your sports or training potential.
Recovery is a practice, just like strength training.
Here are some things you can do to optimize and maximize your recovery. Understand that the recovery process has a significant dramatic effect on your strength development; more than the actual training does itself. If you are unable to recover, you will never maximize strength and speed potential.
The best way to know if you are not well-rested or recovered is by how you feel. Some physical signs can be:
- Feeling sluggish and fatigued
- Muscles soreness
- Shallow breathing
- Lack of concentration and focus
Sleep is the most important recovery tactic. It is the time when your body rebuilds, recharges, and reenergizes. It is also when a process known as protein synthesis is the highest and most effective for the body to repair muscles. Protein synthesis is how muscles rebuild. However, during this process, two important hormones are released, growth hormone and testosterone. These two hormones are highly secreted as you sleep and play an important part in the repair of muscles. The deeper the sleep, the higher the release of these two hormones. The lesser the quality of sleep diminishes the release of the hormones and the recovery of muscles. The poorer the quality and lack of sleep will affect training and performance adversely by:
- Slowing of reaction time
- Create muscular stiffness, strains, pains
- Diminish the ability to concentrate
- Restrict veins and arteries making the heart pump harder
Another major focus of recovery is being able to refuel your body after training or performance. Immediately after exercise is the best time to replenish energy. The best time for fluid replacement is definitely during and after training and events. The perfect and soonest time to eat is about 20-60 minutes after. The sooner, the better. Make sure you are eating good quality meals. If you can't get a meal, use a protein shake if needed, but the meal is best.
If you don't know how to breathe, you need to learn. Breathing through your nose has a more profound effect than breathing through your mouth. Breathing through your nose relaxes the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and nervous system during normal activities during the day. And breathing through the mouth does the exact opposite. It stresses the systems by increasing the heart rate, restricting the air tubes (bronchioles) in the lungs, restricts veins and arteries that make blood flow hard, and decreases neural firing power.
Active recovery/mobility consists of light-to-moderate exercises, post-training or post-event. The objective is to clear toxins, blood lactic acid, and hormonal secretions released during high-intensity bouts of training or performance. Active recovery/mobility produces a higher recovery rate more than completely resting and doing nothing afterward. You can choose activities like cycling, jogging, walking, or using stretching and joint mobility drills as well. Understand the activity should be a low intensity at about 50% or less.
In general, just relax. Don't overthink and avoid thinking about things that will make you stress and destroy your concentration. Relaxation is something disregarded and not scribbled on our list of daily habits. Relaxing techniques can be taking a nap, massage, meditation, etc. It can be anything like going to the park and sitting in nature. Think about disconnecting. Learn to turn yourself off and disengage from the reality around you. It will effectively improve your focus and concentration in general or when training and performing on the field. Don't mentally or physically burn out. It leads to slacking-off in your training and self-loathing.