Something avid gym goers often do not take into full consideration is recovery. In fact, one could argue the recovery is as important if not more important to optimize the gains train that we all want to aboard. For those that participate in strength sports, it has to be an essential part of our regimen in order to keep us injury free and allow our bodies to move the way they are intended. Recovery is much more more than just stretching for 10 minutes post and pre exercise. It’s a series of activities that allows are bodies and mind to fully recuperate so that we can back at it in the gym with moxie and vigor.
Sleeping is the single most important activity a person can do to fully recover from the physical and mental stress of a day’s work. I am a big fan of Stan Efferding (you should be too if you are either in the bodybuilding or powerlifting world). Stan puts out great content on optimizing human performance. He explicitly states that if you are in the gym training multiple times a week then you should be sleeping 7-9 hours a night. Sleeping plays a huge role on the endocrine system. Growth hormone is released and testosterone levels are optimized. Consistency is key; try and go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day in order to get your body’s natural states and energy levels where they needs to be. I hear a lot of people say they operate fine off 2-3 hours of sleep at night. This may work for a while but sooner or later energy levels will diminish ,lifts will be missed and risk of injury will substantially increase.
Proper movement patters and focused stretching should be done every day before and after exercise and even on rest days. As a strength athlete I will spend an hour and a half every day warming up and cooling down using movements programmed by my coach. I look at my body as if it were a high performing sports car that needs service on a daily basis. I check and fine tune everything to get my body ready to race. The most essential tool I use for stretching and movement is a foam roller. It’s the cheapest massage therapy session I ever bought. If you don’t have one buy one today seriously. Consistent stretching and rolling will help break up all the Lactic acid build up which causes most of the post exercise soreness and stiffness. The less you stretch the higher risk you’re putting yourself up for injuries. Being injured is one of the most frustrating and heart breaking things that can typically happen to an athlete.
Other more exotic recovery techniques I have personally tried are cryotherapy which is where you are put into a chamber the reaches -200 degrees Fahrenheit, Acupuncture, red light therapy, IV hydration and vitamins, Hyperbaric chambers, and a few others. I can also tell you from personal experience and scientific evidence that nothing replaces sleep and stretching/rolling for optimal recovery. As most of you know there are no shortcuts on the road to bettering yourself. The long and hard way is typically the best way. Spend time recovering and take care of your body. Train like a champion and recover like one too.