You train hard and you’re proud of the results, so why waste all of your hard work by ignoring recovery? Training well is an important part of self care, but without proper recovery, all your efforts could easily be in vain.
How you recover is just as important as how you train; improper recovery can not only counteract any gains you might have made, but can also lead to injury. Recovery for both your body and your mind should be important parts of your self-care routine. This doesn’t mean that we’re telling you to take it easy; on the contrary, the harder you train, the “harder” you should recover.
What is recovery?
Recovery can be active or passive. Active recovery is often done immediately after a training session and can consist of an easy jog followed by static stretching. This cool down run should be below 70% of your maximum pace and slowly decrease, allowing your circulation to gradually slow down, promoting better recovery. The aim of active recovery is to support the blood flow and thereby enhance the supply of important nutrients to the whole body. This quickens recovery and supports the redevelopment of homeostasis.
Passive recovery is equally important and can include things you (should) do anyway. Sleep, good nutrition, hot and cold showers and meditation are all effective means of passive recovery. Foam rolling and sports massages are further ways in which we can encourage our bodies to recover passively. Sleep is particularly important, as this is the time in which our body repairs itself and releases growth hormones. Maintaining a regular sleeping pattern and ensuring your sleeping conditions are optimised will promote a higher quality of sleep, leading to better muscle regeneration and faster recovery.
The first type of recovery most people think of is that for your body. Taking time to make sure your body remains at its peak should be an absolute priority for any Free Athlete. Physiological recovery can be as easy as simply stretching before and after a workout, but this should be taken as a minimum. Try to integrate recovery into both your workout and your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming; stretching as soon as you get out of bed is an easy habit to get into, and one that will benefit your activities that day. Equally, turning your post-workout shower into a hot and cold contrast shower can do your body (and your hair!) the world of good.
Should you want to take physical recovery more seriously, compression clothing, ice baths and saunas are all effective ways of promoting physiological rejuvenation, keeping you match fit and ready for your next workout.
Equally important is mental recovery. A tough training session can take as much out of us mentally as it does physically, so it’s important that we allow our minds to recover in the same vein that we do our bodies. Meditation, sleep or simply taking some time for yourself all hold countless benefits, ensuring that you’re mentally rested and ready to tackle your next workout.
Mental and physical recovery can also be combined; a sauna can help the muscles recover, whilst also providing time for relaxation and reflection. Equally, time spent stretching could also be time for meditation, so there’s no reason to use lack of time as an excuse not to introduce recovery practices into your daily routine.
What happens when we don’t recover?
In case it hasn’t been made clear by now, recovery is important. By not recovering, you put yourself at risk of overtraining, which is when we train more than we allow our bodies to recover from. Overtraining can cause plateaus, burnouts, hormonal imbalances and even injuries, so it is important that we recognise the signals. If you feel particularly fatigued, notice a decline or plateauing in performance over a period of time, or have a muscular injury you can’t shift, it could be a sign that you’re not dedicating enough time to recovery.
Remember, your recovery is part of your workout; you wouldn’t make excuses to miss a workout, so make sure there are #noexcuses for skipping recovery too.