Updated: Mar 23
When an individual wants to attain a certain goal, having a strategically prescribed periodization is essential for success. However, there is a topic that is not talked about enough, and that is recovery. One line that I constantly repeat to my personal clients is, “recovery is just as important as training”. I believe that for the individual to get to their goal they have to do a lot of the right things consistently, including recovery.
There are many ways to aid recovery. I will go over a few popular go-to modalities in this articles. But first, I must stress the importance of implementing recovery through your nutrition, sleep and proper periodization of your training program.
The body is quite the marvelous machine, if we put this machine through stress then we have to make sure we refuel it with the adequate nutrients. Properly refueling the body has a massive impact on your recovery; it is essential for the maintenance of basic physical function, to sustain a healthy metabolism, and to avoid drastic hormonal fluctuations. It is imperative to consume the right amounts of macronutrients and to avoid highly palatable, processed foods. Refer to the following articles for a start on nutritional guidance: https://www.veritashealthfitness.com/post/nutrition-simplified
Moving on to the most obvious form of recovery: sleep! Sleep is a phenomenon that even up to this day is not fully understood. There are numerous metabolic, hormonal processes that occur at night which help aid the body to recharge and reset for the day ahead. A recommendation is to aim for a range of 7-9 hours on a daily basis. The quality of sleep is imperative for health and performance as well; the less frequently you wake up during the night, the more energized you will feel in the morning. The faster you fall sleep (<30 minutes), the greater the chances of feeling optimal. If an individual is having difficulties in their sleep routine, implementing a sleep strategy can have significant positive effects. Try being consistent with your routine, waking up at the same time each day, and implementing a bedtime routine.
Thirdly, periodization is the strategic planning and design of exercises that promote long term performance markers. Every program must be progressive, specific, personalized, stimulating, and have recovering modalities. When exercising, there are moments where the athlete must push themselves to test a specific athletic endeavor, reach a certain strength goal, hit a determined marker, so on. When this occurs, we have to let the body recuperate from all the stimulus and allow time to repair itself, hence a smart periodization will have phases of intense stimulus, realization as well as recovery.
With nutrition, sleep and proper programming implemented as your base for optimal recovery, consider trying recovery aids! Which common strategies are worth your time and money?
1) Compression garments: pieces of clothing that fit tightly around the body which can help ease muscle stiffness and quicken recovery time.
2) Massage guns: known as percussive massage treatment, are hand-held devices with attachments that promote blood flow, reduce inflammation and muscle tension
3) Cold baths: at low temperatures (way below body temperature) help reduce inflammation, improve recovery, ease soreness.
4) Stretching: to elongate or lengthen muscle tissue to its full length by holding the body in certain positions.
5) Massage: therapy which involves mechanical work on muscles and joints to relieve tension, pain, reduce soreness, improve circulation.
When looking at these recovering modalities, they all have proven to reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and help reduce fatigue. However, certain ones do come on top.
Massage guns and stretching, did not have a significant or positive effect towards recovery or DOMS (sorry). As for cold baths and compression garments they come in second.
Many factors will dictate the efficacy of compression garments; not all are created the same and will not have the same net effect. It seems that compression garments can limit edema (swelling/inflammation) in the muscles and facilitate the clearance of waste, immune factors, and metabolic byproducts after training.
And interesting find was that that for cold bath treatments, the water does not need to be as cold one would think. Being submerged in water just below core temperature or 'lukewarm' produced positive results towards fatigue. It seems the colder the temperate the more negative effects it can potentially have towards strength and muscle (this not fully understood why yet).
The winning treatment that came up top was massage therapy. The mechanism of massage has the most positive effects towards mitigating fatigue and reducing DOMS. In a perfect scenario, massage had the most efficacy post workout, but it might not be a modality that can be implemented consistently. It is good to know that there are other methods out there that can still aid recovery even though it is not as effective. Most of the time, when implementing new routines, the importance lies with what is most applicable and not so much what is optimal.