This article is the fourth and final installment in the exercise recovery series.
I’m finally going to cover the sexy stuff. These are not state of the art recovery modalities that will improve your training, recovery, and results, but they are the recovery methods that all work.
They’re not performing as well as you’d expect the marketing machine to do, but you’re looking for small wins – not game changers – at this stage of the recovery puzzle.
The recovery strategies discussed in this article all have strong evidence to back them up.
I haven’t covered some other recovery methods as there isn’t enough evidence to be confident in recommending them.
There are two categories of recovery strategies. I will cover both:
- Passive recovery methods focus on silence and inactivity.
- Active recovery methods require activity, but in a way that promotes recovery rather than intensity.
- Hydration could fall under the umbrella of nutrition. It is undoubtedly an essential factor to consider in your overall exercise performance and recovery. Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to your health, energy levels, gym performance, and healing.
- Many of us are very conscious of our hydration during training and competition, but are less focused on hydration the rest of the time. If you spend the rest of the time raising awareness of your hydration status, it can greatly improve your recovery. We have roughly 60% water, so it should come as no surprise that staying hydrated is important.
- Water supports all of our body functions. Optimal hydration levels enable, among other things, cell growth and reproduction, effective digestion, efficient nutrient uptake, oxygen supply, temperature regulation, hormone and neurotransmitter production, less stress on the heart and joint lubrication. All of these factors affect training and recovery.
- The easiest way to check your hydration status is to look at your piss. If it’s clear to a pale straw color, you are well hydrated. The darker your piss, the less hydrated you are.
A good goal for water intake is 0.04 liters per kilogram of body weight. For a person weighing 100 kg, that’s 4 liters per day.
100 kg x 0.04 liters = 4 liters
Your exact needs will depend on other factors such as activity level, sweat rate and ambient temperature. Start with the recommendation of 0.04 liters per kg and adjust as needed. The following guidelines can help you stay well hydrated:
- Drinking water is the best way to keep hydrated.
- Tea and coffee have a net moisturizing effect, but are not as effective as drinking water.
- You don’t need sports drinks for average strength and bodybuilding training. Only drink them before, during and after strenuous exercise or competitions for a duration of> 90 minutes.
Proper diet planning will ensure adequate nutrients to benefit your workout.
- take a nap is a bit of a deceit because I covered the importance of sleep in recovery from your last article. That focus was on improving the quantity and quality of your sleep overnight. Supplementing your nighttime sleep with naps can also be beneficial and improve recovery.
- It’s important to note that while napping can help you sleep well and better rest, it shouldn’t replace healthy sleep patterns. Make a good night’s sleep your number one priority. Then use the nap to optimize recovery. If you are taking a nap, it is best not to do it too close to your normal bedtime. Napping late in the day can disrupt your sleep during the night and turn into a false economy. In general, late morning or early afternoon naps work well for improving recovery without interfering with your normal sleep routine.
- Keep naps short. Napping for 20 to 30 minutes can help improve recovery and mental awareness. Napping too long can lead to insomnia. The risk increases if you nap longer than 30 minutes or late in the day.
- The coffee nap hack: If you feel drowsy after taking a nap, it may be a wrong economy. Napping for 20 minutes will help with recovery. However, if you feel like a zombie for the next hour, your productivity will increase and you will be right to question whether napping was a worthwhile strategy. I’ve struggled with this in the past.
- One tip that worked well for me was to have a coffee right before my nap. The caffeine from the coffee hit my bloodstream, causing a short-term spike in cortisol that helped me feel awake and refreshed after napping.
Massage: While there is some evidence to support the physiological benefits of massage, the actual benefits appear to be more psychological in nature.
There is strong evidence of the psychological and relaxing benefits of massage. These factors all play important roles in your recovery and adjustment.
A deep tissue sports massage may not be the best approach as it is far from relaxing. A gentler approach may be more beneficial to recovery as you can completely relax and enjoy the experience.
Light days: Lighter days of exercise can potentially improve recovery time more than a full day of rest. Systematic decreases define an easier day in terms of training volume and intensity. Light days fall under good programming.
- For strength or power goals: I find lighter days to be incredibly beneficial. You can program these every week (or several times a week) to allow for a higher frequency on tech-driven lifts like weightlifting and gymnastics. Still, allow rest and adjustment. This emphasis allows you to grease the groove of an elevator and refine the technique without creating a lot of fatigue.
- For bodybuilding goals: I think you can use the easier days a little differently. In this case, I tend to use light days as days when smaller muscle groups cause less systemic fatigue and require less mental arousal to exercise or have a workout. I’ve found this to work well for handling all of the training stress over a week and means a lifter can get a productive workout while allowing a good recovery.
- Active recovery days: Active rest days are very risky. You can certainly improve recovery, but most exercise rats struggle to resist the temptation to turn their active recovery day into a full-blown workout.
- If the temptation is too great, just slow down recovery from your usual workouts. This slowdown defeats the Active Recovery Days object. It would help if you were honest with yourself about this. If you know that you lack the discipline to stick to your recovery day plan, stay away from the gym. Do nothing. Just take a day off.
- However, if you can stick to your recovery day plan, you may be able to improve your overall recovery. The difference isn’t dramatic, but every little bit adds up.
A day of rest increases blood circulation and relieves psychological stress.
These two things can speed up the recovery and customization process. Low-intensity activities are suitable for days of rest.
One of my favorite strategies is to take a brisk 20-minute walk outside. Walking increases blood circulation and supports regeneration, especially in the legs, but is still of low intensity. It does not affect recovery from previous training or performance in subsequent sessions.
Another correct choice is a mobility routine.
A full body mobility flow can be a productive strategy for recreational days.
The key is to remember that recovery days should include more general fitness moves in a less structured, lower-intensity training environment than regular exercise.
Avoid high intensity style training, excessive duration or novel activity, and anything that is strenuous. Recovery day sessions should be easier and shorter than typical workouts. They should encourage recovery and not feel like a workout.
The clue is in the name – recovery!
Eke Out Exercise Recovery
This article is by far the shortest in this exercise recovery series. The reason is that these recovery strategies are less effective than the other factors I covered.
If you find that you are investing more time, money, and energy into the recovery methods in this article than you did in the first three installments, you are missing out on a better recovery.
However, if you’ve ticked all of the other items in our exercise recovery series, you can get additional recovery capacity by implementing the strategies discussed here.
- Train hard, recover harder
- The Importance of Structured Training Programs in Recovery
- The Two Most Powerful Exercise Recovery Tools in Nature
- Active, passive, and deserved exercise recovery strategies