I’m training a lot and people know that. They keep asking me: “How do you deal with recovery? What methods are you using?” Some other people confront me with different methods they’ve tried, but soon they realize these methods are not magic.
Everybody who trains needs recovery, even if you are not a professional athlete. Recovery is important, but what method do you really need?
Cryotherapy, floating tank, infrared sauna, massage… the list is too long. It’s a list of stuff that I don’t necessarily use. It might be beneficial, but the benefit-cost relation isn’t great. Most methods take too much time and effort while not benefiting enough from it.
So, for my recovery I decided to focus on four things: Sleeping, eating, relaxing and compensating.
Nothing is as important to me as sleep. I can get two training sessions a day without a problem, but I have to sleep enough! Sleep quality is important too, but first of all I want to sleep enough. Enough means as much as the body needs.
Enough means 8 hours. Sometimes it’s even more. Sometimes when I eat well, I only need 7 hours, but anything less makes me perform very badly.
If you are a person that gets up very early for work, you have to go to bed early! Don’t tell me “6 hours is enough for me” and complain about your recovery! If you do night shifts, you have to deal with recovery problems. Your repairing growth hormone gets produced while you sleep at night, no matter if you get your sleep in over the day.
I’m a person that goes to bed late, it’s a problem. But I structure my day around that. I don’t do early appointments or work when it’s not necessary. Even training hard earlier than 10 a.m. makes no sense for me now as I need my time to wake up and get ready in the morning.
There was a time in fight preparation when I got up at 4:30am to get a strength& conditioning session in at 6 before school. Do I need to prove to myself anymore that I’m disciplined? I have proved myself many times, now it’s time to be smart and listen to my body. There are enough other situations to prove my discipline.
Sleeping more doesn’t mean that you are lazy. You sleep more because you work more!
The fitter I am, the easier I recover and the less sleep I need. Closer to a competition, I sleep gets less and less, also due to the super clean diet I’m eating. This is the second aspect of my recovery.
On a high calorie deficit, your recovery slows down. It’s a contradiction: Improve performance and recover while not getting enough energy. Still, I manage that it doesn’t contradict. The key is food quality.
If you train a lot, you need a diet with high micronutrient density. You can only get it with fresh fruit and vegetables, especially greens. Eat your greens every day and it will improve your recovery.
Supplements can help with recovery but it won’t do much if your diet is bad. No supplement can replace sleep and food for your recovery.
Make sure your calorie deficit isn’t too high. Enough protein and fat is essential. And even if you don’t want to believe it, you need carbs on your training days!
With training, we don’t just stress our body but also our mind. Once our mind is exhausted it takes way longer to recover our bodies. It can take weeks for your mind to recover once you’ve gone too far. This happens by doing too many sessions too close, combined with an information overload.
What happens then is that you feel incorrect movement when you train. It can happen that you struggle to learn more or it can get even worse by forgetting important details of your basic technique. Therefore, you move inefficiently and make your body more exhausted.
Of course, the purpose of training is to stimulate the body and nervous system, but the key is to find the limit and to avoid going over it too often.
Relaxing has a high priority in my life. It’s full of action, so whenever I have spare time, I just want to relax.
Relaxing doesn’t mean going out to nightclubs on the weekends and forgo your night’s sleep. That’s the worst thing you can do for your recovery!
Instead, relaxing means to chill, drink some tea and watch a movie. Netflix& Chill is legit for recovery 😉
If you want to go out with friends, go for food with them. It’s always great to connect with people and food. If you feel terrified of your diet, that’s the time when you can consider breaking your diet. It can clear your mind and get you back on focusing for the diet. Celebrate it, but don’t go overboard.
In between training sessions, I enjoy just sitting in a café, slowly sip my coffee, think and just breath. Working on something completely different to what you do in training is also great for your mind. I actually enjoy going to my university classes, it helps recover my mind from the training.
Be careful with dating. If you don’t enjoy the effort, don’t do it. If the person you fancy wants to go partying, don’t go. Sometimes it’s better to go either straight to the point or leave it. Dating and recovering at the same time can be hard, you have to decide on one or the other. If the other person makes you relax, great! Relax with her/him. You can go out for dinner or to the cinema, but make sure you get a big popcorn bag then. There is no point in going to the cinema with cucumber sticks. (I’ve been there, makes no sense in the context of recovery, trust me).
A rest day is a relaxing day and it’s needed at least once a week.
If you are an athlete, this is something you need to know. You can actually recover better by training more!
It’s called compensation or recovery training and it’s highly recommended every time you train very intensely. This is how it works:
After a very hard session, you do the same movement for up to 30 more minutes at a very slow pace to cool down, e.g. if you did some hard intervals on the boxing bag, you finish the session with a few steady slow pace shadow boxing rounds. Keep the intensity very low, it’s an active recovery method.
The purpose is to train your cardiovascular system and to flush all the lactic acids out of your muscles by increased blood flow. Therefore, it’s good to do the exact same movement you did intensely before. You can go on the ergo bike or treadmill too, but it won’t be as effective as the same movement you did before.
Compensation is also a great method for the weeks after the competition. Take it easy for a few weeks after the competition and use the time to build a good aerobic system.
It’s proven to work up to six times better than stretching, sauna, massage and other recovery methods. It can help you to train hard again the next day because you created a physiological balance to the high intensity load.
It all comes down to balance
You can play around and find what’s best for you. I didn’t add mobility methods to the list as it should always be part of your training, no matter if you are well recovered. Now and then I add some sauna, Epsom baths and I’ve also had great experiences with ice baths, but it isn’t a fixed part of my schedule.
Recovery methods are personal preference. You can see you don’t need much. In the end, it all comes down to balance in life, Yin & Yang. Find your physical and mental balance.
You can effectively reduce distress by doing sports, but you can also cause stress by doing sports. Find the right balance for your body and mind. The less you stress, the easier you will recover.
There is one last experience I want to share with you: As soon as I put high effort into recovery, it’s not recovering anymore, it’s stress. Recovery doesn’t take a lot of effort, recovery isn’t meant to exhaust.
Take it easy