Your body is an efficiency machine, built for survival
and it can do amazing things.....
That's the good news.The bad news is that all machines require maintenance. Ignore this fact and your machine will break down. Unfortunately, you don't get to choose how it will break down. Maybe it's just a flat tire, or maybe it's a whole engine overhaul!!!
You only get this one body to work with-no refunds, exchanges or money back.
So taking good care of it is of utmost importance. Sometime we take this for granted and expect our bodies to keep going no matter what we throw at them.
Amazingly, for the most part they do!
Work stress, family stress, poor sleep, high volume exercise (or very low), chronic nagging pain are all wear and tear on our bodies. Our overall well being and continued good function depend on our ability to listen and respond to our body's signals of fatigue and wear- the warning lights on our dashboard.
In short, 'Recovery' is a complex, multi-faceted mechanism with wide-ranging effects on our lives.
But, I'm looking for change. I just need to workout harder! Right?
Gym time is a stimulus for change, this is true, but this stimulus will only create results if we recover enough between workouts. The quicker and more efficiently we can recover, the sooner we can spur further progress.
When we don’t recover adequately, our performance and health eventually suffer.
Many athletes describe it as “hitting a wall.” Many exercisers refer to it as “over training.” It usually means low energy and an overall sensation of not feeling quite right. Fatigue occurs because recovery wasn’t adequate.
Recovery isn't just looking well rested and feeling energetic. It's important to remember what's going on under the hood as well. If we looked at markers of inflammation, or connective tissue health, what would we see? Without adequate recovery, we might see their happy neurotransmitters and anabolic hormones going down and their catabolic hormones such as cortisol going up which can have a direct effect on performance, energy and weight gain.
The underlying causes of fatigue fall into two main categories:
Our central nervous system (CNS) acts like a car engine regulator. If the engine on a car revs too high for too long, it shuts down. Our brain attempts to protect our muscles the same way. It will reduce the rate of nerve impulses.
Conversely, local fatigue is related to energy system depletion and/or metabolic byproduct accumulation. Using our car analogy, this is sort of like running out of gas or rusting.
More is not better.
Better is better.
What you can do....
The activities we choose to engage in when we are not working out greatly influence how efficiently we recoup. We can put all of our life's activities into two main categories:
Sympathetic activities – often referred to as “fight or flight”= adding stress
Parasympathetic activities – often referred to as “rest and digest” = relieving stress
Pursuing ambitious career goals, building relationships, balancing finances, acquiring food, acquiring shelter, and all of the daily activities required for human survival are sympathetic activities.
They are stressors and can bump up levels of cortisol and adrenaline.
When we get wrapped up in these activities and let them dominate our life, it can result in:
Poor blood sugar management and insulin resistance
Depression, sleep disruption, and carbohydrate craving
Decreased thyroid hormone output and a reduced metabolism
Altered sex hormone activity
Amino acid loss from muscle
Not great for our long term health, but sometimes these activities are necessarily dominant in our lives for a period of time.
However, when these sympathetic activities become chronic, production of stress hormones can slow and the development of ongoing fatigue could occur. This type of fatigue is central, or neuromuscular. The body has been revving too high for too long and it’s shutting down.
Now, removing all stressors from life might sound great! Unfortunately it's not realistic and not necessarily a good thing. Rather than eliminating stress, it becomes a game of balancing stressful activities with relaxing and energizing activities.
Relaxing and energizing activities are parasympathetic dominant.
Try some of these parasympathetic activies
on for size:
Or ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY LIKE PUPPIES OR HUGS OR BELLY LAUGHS!!!
Meditation, yoga, pilates and tai chi can help to lower stress, improve oxygenation and stimulate recovery. They’ve been around for thousands of years because they work. Spa treatments, sauna time and baths can facilitate lymph circulation and recovery.
Sleep and meaningful relationships can also regulate our recovery. A restful sleep and a good laugh are like a carnival for energizing and recovery hormones. And everyone likes the carnival.
Most people need 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night to perform their best. If your sleep has tanked, we can help you pin point why and get you back on the road to sweet dreams.
One activity isn’t necessarily better than another; it’s more about what the specific activity does for you. Remember, the immune system is working overtime between exercise bouts as it tries to bring things back into balance. The least you can do is nudge it along.
Prioritizing 30 minutes of parasympathetic activity each day is essential for productive recovery.
Good Nutrition is Key to Good Recovery
On the nutrition front, eating real food in its unprocessed form will give your body the nutrients it needs. We cover this in depth throughout the Procoach Platform. Consuming whole foods along with herbs and spices can help to moderate inflammation, assisting in recovery.
Avoid lowering calories below 1500 per day when training more than 7 hours each week. Less and you could be telling your body to down regulate repair processes as well as metabolic functions to compensate for the relative lack of calories. Good energy balance is the key to sustained progress in the gym and your overall health!
Appetite can clue you in on your recovery status as well. If you can’t imagine eating more than a couple pieces of fruit each day OR feel like a bottomless food pit, you may be overtraining.
And don’t neglect hydration. Plenty of fluids can be important for lymphatic function.
If a nutrient dense meal or recovery supplements aren’t in place after workouts, the regeneration process can be delayed.
Supplements after training can enhance the recovery process. These include carbohydrates, protein and BCAAs and possibly Glutamine and creatine. We can establish a recovery protocol that will help you decide which supplements (if any) to use while you are on the road to recovery.
Avoid unnecessary anti-inflammatory medications, prescription or over the counter (e.g., NSAIDs). While we don’t want chronic inflammation, we do want inflammation to happen in the initial stages after trauma. When we suppress inflammation, we may also forfeit the recovery process long-term!
Workout Variation and Cross-training
Cross training and workout variety do not just encompass gym based activities!! You can do a tremendous amount of good for your overall recovery by not just changing how you work out , but where and with what tools as well.
If you normally bro it out in dumbbell land, maybe go out side for a hike. If you love running, change it up and swing some kettle bells. Think outside the 'box' and find ways to move your body that don;t repeat the same patterns over and over.
When we don’t cross train and vary workouts,those muscles and energy systems don't get a chance to fully recover.
We've all heard body builders say too much cardio will mess with their gainz!!! Well, if you do intense intervals and then intense resistance training, day after day, you can over tax your anaerobic system and stop muscle repair (aka growth) hence the popularity of low intensity cardio between resistance training sessions for strength and physique athletes.
Equally, if you do endurance cycling and running day after day, you’ll tax your oxidative system and it gets more difficult to replenish nutrient stores.
Starting the recovery process
After each stressful workout, we must repair damaged tissues and cells while replenishing nutrient stores and removing wastes. When we don't give our bodies adequate rest, we prevent ourselves from gaining valuable muscle tissue
Engaging in an adequate warm-up, mobility work, a cool-down, and plenty of flexibility work will assist in the recovery process. Think of it as pre-hab.
Improving and ensuring good circulation is an important part of this. Blood brings new oxygen and nutrients while removing wastes. Lymphatic circulation sends white blood cells to do their job while tidying messes left behind.
Exercise and immunity
The relationship between exercise and immunity is what researchers call a “J-shaped curve”.
Sedentary people have a moderate risk of infection. Their immune system isn’t running as well as it could be.
People who are regularly active, but moderate their intensity and vary their training, do better than the sedentary people. They’re the healthiest bunch.
People who are active but constantly pushing their limits — whether that’s workout frequency, duration, intensity, or loading — without proper recovery start to become sicker and sicker the more they crank up the difficulty. In extreme cases, they can end up with a serious infection such as pneumonia.
High levels of exercise intensity with inadequate recovery can result in immunosuppression
-In other words, your immune system stops functioning optimally and you get sick more often. OR maybe you have a chronic nagging injury that just won't go away.
How to get started
Prioritize 30 minutes of parasympathetic activity each day (e.g., yoga, meditation, massage, warm bath, Jacuzzi, light conversation, laughing, etc.)
Don’t lower calorie intake below 1500 when training more than 7 hours a week
Use a carbohydrate, protein, or BCAA supplement after training
Consider using creatine, glutamine, and/or phosphatidylserine if your diet is not up to par
Avoid using anti-inflammatory medications on a regular basis
Eat nutrient dense foods at regular intervals, incorporate herbs and spices, and drink water and tea whenever you are thirsty
Vary your training program and cross-train
Participate in low intensity exercise between higher intensity bouts to promote recovery (e.g., yoga, walking, swimming, stretching, mobility work, etc.)
Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night
Further resources From Precision Nutrition
Research Review: Nutrition and Exercise Recovery – Part 1