Recovery: It’s key to fitness

You can train like a maniac, but if you don’t take the time to let your body recover, you won’t see the gains you deserve.

You’ve probably seen the Arnie meme about rest day. (You know, the one where he says, “Rest day? Where is this ‘rest’ muscle, and how do you train it?”) While it’s all very hilarious to poke fun at taking a rest day, it’s actually the smartest thing you can do to ensure you’re getting the most out of your training.

Nothing in the tank. Not enough quality recovery.

Training for a marathon? If you don’t allow your body time to rest between runs, it can’t recover and adapt to the training you’re putting it through, meaning you’ll get more fatigued, be prone to injury and will struggle to make it through your plan.

Muscles need recovery time if they’re going to repair and, ultimately, grow. So when you’re strength training, it’s important that you look at the bigger picture. It’s not just about putting in the hard hours, it’s also about getting adequate rest and enough protein. But there are plenty of other things you can do to help your body recover faster – when it comes to recovery, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and, basically, the more recovery methods you use, the better the end result.

We’ve pulled together a bunch of expert tips on recovery to give you some ideas on how you can incorporate recovery into your workout routine. If you really want to see results, recovery should be as essential a part of your training program as putting on your gym gear, counting reps or admiring your muscles in the gym mirror.

Bad sleep = bad recovery

Time-out tips

CHILL OUT

• You may have noticed cryotherapy clinics popping up of late. The extremely low temps cause the brain to divert blood to your core to keep the heart, brain and lungs working. This triggers a release of hormones, including antiinflammatories, into the blood. When you leave the pod, the blood – enriched with oxygen and hormones – heads back to all parts of the body, helping muscles recover. While it’s clever, it’s also exxy. Instead, try jumping in a cold shower for 1 minute, then switch to hot for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this 4 times and you’ll feel ace.

REFUEL

• Your nutrition is a critical factor in your recovery between sessions. Aim to get some decent fuel back into your body within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing a session. A combination of three to four parts carbohydrate, one part protein is a great mix and most people prefer it in liquid form like a shake. Refuelling quickly after a session will speed up your recovery and is particularly important if you’re training most days.

UNWIND

• The ability to relax mentally as well as physically should play a big part in all recovery plans, but most of us completely neglect the mind. During any gruelling training program, ensure you have time set aside to relax with family and friends – preferably some with no involvement in exercise at all. If you want to go a step further, regular meditation practice has been shown to significantly improve recovery and performance at times of high stress.

Going on holiday?

• A little exercise while on holiday is no bad thing, but if you find you’re still working out every day because you’re worried about losing fitness, relax. The body will not “forget” your gains from exercise during a short holiday – even exercise at a top level of sport is programmed using phases, and at the end of each phase, there are breaks and natural reductions in physical activity. See? Even the best athletes in the world go on holiday and ease off the training. Having a break isn’t a crime, and if every pro athlete has breaks, why can’t you? Use the time to re-evaluate your training, celebrate your hard work and come back with a new plan and a rejuvenated body.

Bounce back faster

MAG FOR MUSCLE

• Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for energy metabolism and maintenance of muscle function. Studies show that magnesium may help muscles to recover after a tough workout, as it’s an anti-inflammatory and helps muscles to relax. We like ZMA from Musashi. MUSASHI ZMA+ is a source of key minerals Magnesium, Zinc and Manganese.

BED DOWN

• Sleep is your key recovery weapon. It’s great if you can get eight hours’ a night, but the quality of your sleep is just as important. We move through several cycles as we sleep and it’s when you’re in your deep sleep that the crucial growth hormones are released.

MAKE IT A HABIT

• For most athletes, the key to recovering well is never down to one single factor – the best at recovery are those who frequently get the little things right. Get into a good routine and a habit of daily stretching, snack well between meals and drink loads of water.

LISS & TELL

• Taking a rest day doesn’t have to mean spending all of it in bed. You can try LISS. Low-intensity steady state cardio, exercise done at a low intensity for a long period, is a great form of active recovery that gets the blood flowing, but gives your body a rest from hardcore training. ■