If you’ve been working hard on your fitness this year, make sure you’re not missing out on this major component for progress. A fitness routine, whether you’re training for competition or for life, isn’t complete without recovery. Recovery is key to staying injury free and seeing optimal progress from your workouts.
Wear and tear from exercise is cumulative. You may have ‘felt something’ in your back or shoulder in your last workout that you’ll probably ignore so that it doesn’t slow you down… The bummer is that it probably will slow you down over time if it’s not addressed.
The goal is for ‘recovery’ to be preventative. Rather than recovering from an injury, you would be much better off incorporating recovery from general stress into your wellness routine.
What do I mean by general stress? Working out causes stress on your body. It’s good stress, when done properly, that promotes lean muscle, strong bones, and better circulation. What we do when we’re not working out also causes (not so good) stress; sitting at a desk all day, driving for hours, standing for an entire shift, etc.
For both ends of the spectrum, recovery is key. The good news is that you don’t need different recovery routines for each stressful part of your life. It all requires similar attention: Recovery through nutrition, movement, and rest.
Recovery through nutrition
This goes beyond your post-workout shake.
- How to stay hydrated: Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water (130lbs = 65oz) and add 8oz for your workout. Hydration comes from various sources. Soup is a great way to increase hydration with your meals. Fruits and veggies also have a high water content, so add these generously.
- Veggies and fruit: When thinking about what’s for lunch, try planning your veggies before your protein. Prioritizing your greens and your berries can be very helpful in making sure you get what you need. Aim for a fist of veggies at every meal. If you like steel cut oats in the morning, here’s my favorite morning combination (also a great post workout meal):
- Protein: This is a big one and you’ll find a lot of opinions on this. The bottom line is that we need plenty of protein to thrive, but exactly how much depends on a variety of factors. Here is a calculator to give you a baseline amount of protein – what you need in order not to be deficient according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization. What needs to be taken into account includes your goals and your current activity level.
- If you’re training for a marathon, you should increase your protein to accommodate your recovery and progress.
- If your goal is body composition, you’ll want to adjust your protein intake to facilitate that.
- If you would like to get more specific about your protein intake, Raquel can help you build a meal plan based on your macros. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, eggs, ghee (clarified butter). You don’t need a lot, but consistency with healthy fats at every meal will help everything function better, and your skin will look better too!
- Alcohol: Before you roll your eyes at this one, please note that as an Azorean I thoroughly enjoy my red wine… but the reality is that it can seriously impede progress on several levels. To point out a few ways; it can dehydrate you, have a negative impact on your sleep, it’s calorie dense and nutrient deficient, and it changes the way your system functions – making your digestive process less efficient. Alcohol is a multi-whammy that can be discussed in great lengths, so we’ll save that for another post. But, if you really want to stay on track with your health and fitness, aim for no more than 5 beverages per week.
Recovery through Movement
We are not designed to be sedentary. We are designed, however, to function in cycles of mental work, physical work, and rest. When we coach people to run better, we work with them to find their ‘recovery pace’ or ‘forever pace’. This is a pace that allows recovery without stopping.
Movement improves circulation (blood and lymphatic), mood, mental clarity, and more. A token phrase that we love is ‘Motion is lotion’. If your body is feeling stiff and achy, it’s basically giving you a battle cry for movement.
Movement to aid in your general recovery and resilience includes:
- Walking. This is the golden child of restorative movement. It can be done anywhere and can be sustained for long periods of time. Your ‘forever pace’.
- Mobility routines. Dedicating time and effort to allow your body to move through full ranges of motion with control and intention is a marvelous thing. Opening up the hips and chest, and gaining mobility through your thoracic spine and shoulders will do wonders for your fitness and recovery. As you get more comfortable with working through various deep movements, this is a great alternative to snacking at night while watching tv. Check out our library of mobility videos on YouTube.
- Myofascial release. This can be achieved through foam rolling, using the theragun, tigertail roller, P-Knot trigger point release, or going for a regular deep tissue massage. Once you feel first hand what myofascial release can do for your body, you’ll want to incorporate it into your daily routine. 10 minutes will work wonders!
Recovery through rest
Owning your downtime and creating a sleep routine is the wholly grail of true rest. If there’s one thing I see butchered more often than I like to admit, it’s sleep. There seems to be a general undertone that sleep is a luxury, or the complete opposite, that it’s a waste of time. The amount of processes that occur while we sleep (and only while we sleep) is astounding and imperative to optimal health. You simply cannot thrive without it – which may look a little different for everyone, but nonetheless important.
Here are some key steps that you can implement to get the most from sleep routine:
- Turn off the screens an hour before bedtime. You’ve probably heard this already and it holds true. Giving your eyes a break from the stimulation and the blue light will help facilitate rest. If you’re like me and you’re doing school work in the evening because it’s the only time you have to do it, invest in a good pair of blue blocker glasses. This will help mitigate the blue light and help your circadian rhythm normalize.
- If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, get familiar with NSDR (non-sleep deep rest). This promotes a restful, almost meditative, state so that your body can carry on with its sleep processes, and you can better recover.
- Try an evening shower. In order to fall asleep, our body temperature needs to drop a little. By taking a hot shower in the evening, your body temp will start to drop as soon as you’re out. This in conjunction with your circadian clock will help promote restful sleep.
- Another great way to kick your circadian clock into gear is by exercising first thing in the morning and exposing yourself to sunlight within 30 minutes of waking. If it’s still dark out in the am when you’re getting up, this is the perfect time for the blue light from your screen. Bright lights will wake you and fuel your clock, which naturally runs on about a 24 hour schedule. So the sooner you’re in bright lights in the am, and then phase out of bright lights towards bedtime… the better your sleep will be.
- There’s SO much that can be addressed when it comes to better sleep and resilience. Stay tuned as we roll out more information about a special coaching program to help you sleep better, feel better, and live better.
Recovery through nutrition, movement, and rest are big topics independently. There’s lots of room for a deep dive into all the possibilities for creating healthy and sustainable habits that can be life changing. With this, I encourage you to reach for the low hanging fruit and start with one or two aspects that, with a little effort, can become your gateway to positive change. Motivation comes from action, so even a 5 minute action can lead to great things. Give it a go and let us know how you’re doing!