There is a direct correlation between how well you recover and how hard you can train repeatedly and we should only exercise intensely to the degree to which we can recover.
Here’s our 6 key points to recovering to maximise results.
The best way to measure how you are recovering is by asking yourself how you feel on a given day. Do I feel ready to train? Am I motivated to go to the gym? Or am I looking for any reason to get out of going? This might seem simple, and it is true that getting to know yourself better comes with experience, which is of course subjective, but in the end, who else is better placed than you are to tell you how physically and mentally ready you are to train?
Pre-recovery is the broad term for all of the things that you do day-to-day outside of your workouts, before you even get to the gym. It is something that many of us do not think about, probably in part because it might be the least sexy bit of advice that you will ever receive when it comes to exercise and nutrition, but also because what it actually means is that if you want to push the exercise boundaries, you need to do the basics, consistently.
This includes eating and drinking enough of the right things, getting restful sleep, limiting stress, meditating, playing with the kids, or whatever else it is that helps you wind down and regenerate.
The food that we nourish our bodies with is vital, both the quality and quantity. This can extend to more involved nutritional strategies for the more advanced exercisers amongst us, but at the outset, it will always come down to the basics, done consistently.
Nutrition is a contentious issue that divides opinions like nothing else, and ultimately it will be about finding the right balance for your individual requirements, but the basic principles are universal.
A bit like nutrition, we have heard it all before when it comes to the importance of hydration, but it keeps being highlighted for very good reason – hydration is key.
Exactly how much we need to drink is open to debate, and like anything, you can over do it, but for most of us it is more than we currently drink. A useful guideline might be to drink a litre of water per 25kg of bodyweight, so if you weigh 75kg that’s broadly 2-3 litres per day. If this is more than you are used to, it is probably wise to step your intake up slowly.
Sleep might be the most underrated ‘supplement’ available. Adequate sleep, especially long term, will be perhaps the biggest determining factor when it comes to recovery.
Poor sleep will negatively impact just about anything you can think of, including mood, energy levels, insulin sensitivity, and appetite amongst other things. As anyone who has had young children will testify, poor sleep equals food cravings, namely sugar, and little or no appetite for gym training. Prolonged poor or disrupted sleep might just about be the worst thing for us, regardless of our exercise goals.
A recommendation of 7-9hours sleep a night seems a sensible one. Some of us can do less, some need more, but if your sleep is disrupted for too long, recovery will be significantly impaired and you will probably need to tweak your exercise programme accordingly.
MOBILITY AND SOFT TISSUE WORK
Regular mobility training and soft tissue work are as important as intense exercise, assuming that you want to stay injury free of course. We appreciate that for many of us who would prefer to spend our time exerting ourselves more intensely that this might seem like a bit of a nuisance, but neglect your stretching and mobility or soft tissue work at your peril – trust me, we’ve been there.
It is true that some of us need more mobility work than others, and that we do not all have the same specific requirements, but we all need to work to ensure that we keep muscles and joints in good working order.
A simple guideline is to do one fifteen-minute stretching and mobility session every week for each decade you have been alive. So if you are in your thirties, you need to do three fifteen-minute sessions per week. It becomes more important as we get older and naturally become less mobile.
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