- Recovery Training should be performed the day after a high intensity session. Learning How to recover faster can be a game changer.
- Prioritizing recovery will speed up your gains and reduce injuries.
- Purposefully using recovery training can improve your strength, endurance and resilience to stress.
"No Pain, No gain..."
"The harder you train, the more you gain..."
This is the common logic used by most of us who are passionate about our training. But the logic is wrong, and it's costing you. Best case it will simply cost you progress in your training. Worst case, it'll take an injury or two, or three, to make you realize the importance of properly programming recovery into your training.
I used the train-all-out-every-day method for a long time. I was stuck in a cycle of driving myself into the ground. I always wondered why I wasn't much better with all the effort I put in. Recovery was the missing link.
What is Recovery Training?
Recovery Training is a specific type of training you can implement to speed up recovery from more intense sessions. Recovery training will allow your body to adapt to training faster, i.e., you can get bigger, stronger, better.. in less time, with less risk for injury.
Why You Need It
Training with high intensity more than once or twice a week should be reserved for elite level athletes. Even they keep it to no more than 3 high intensity sessions per week. This is because the body simply cannot recover from (and adapt to) that much intensity. Training too hard, too often will lead to negative results 100% of the time. Get it out of your head that progress = max effort every time you train. Research clearly tells us that this is false.
Check out my article on the dangers of too much High Intensity Training Here: Is HIIT sabotaging your fitness?
How to Implement Recovery Training to Recover Faster
A Recovery Session can be broken down into 5 parts. The total length of the session shouldn't take more than 45 minutes or so.
Assume a quadruped position (on all fours) on the floor, or just lay flat on your back. Take in 5 deep breaths through the nose, and out through the mouth. This isn't meditation. You're simply preparing the mind and body for the upcoming session. Take note of any soreness or fatigue you feel in the body.
2. Foam Rolling and Light Stretching
Perform about 5 minutes of light, dynamic stretching and foam rolling. This isn't the time to do static stretching (holding for prolonged periods). Check out the video below by TrainHeroic (an amazing app if you're looking for training programs and great coaches). The "Agile 8" is a great warmup.
Video by TrainHeroic. Check their App out for awesome programming
3. 30 Minutes of Light Cardiovascular Training
This is best accomplished with a heart rate monitor. You should aim to keep the heart rate between 120-135 beats per minute. You can use any method you want... treadmill, elliptical, swimming, light shadow boxing or drills, or a mixture of implements. I like to spend 10 minutes on 3 different activities.
4. 1-2 Strength Movements
Perform 1-2 strength movements, preferably full body compound movements like the Deadlift or Olympic lifts. Perform 3 sets of 3-5 reps at no more than 85-90% of your max. Aim a little low if you're in doubt. We want to stimulate recovery in the body and nervous system, not incur more stress to recover from.
5. Cool Down, Stretching, Breathing
Spend the last 10 minutes or so with a cool down. Perform 5 minutes of very light cardio, and really try to drive the heart rate as low as possible. Spend another 5 minutes or so doing some longer, static stretching. Continue to focus on being relaxed. End the session the same way you started. Take some deep, relaxing breaths. Drive the heart rate as low as you can. You should walk out of the gym feeling good.
The Benefits of The Recovery Session
This light training will allow your body to remove waste products built up from previous, higher intensity workouts. It will push blood flow into the joints, ligaments and tendons, which can be slower to recover. Blood flow will also be pushed into damaged muscle tissue, speeding up recovery.
Most importantly, the low intensity cardiovascular work trains the heart to pump more blood per beat (cardiac output). The low intensity work is essential for a strong foundation of aerobic fitness. A strong aerobic base allows the body to recover faster... You see where this is going?
Recovery Training will help nudge the body into a parasympathetic recovery mode. You can best track this by monitoring your HRV, which I explain in this article: https://supastrong.net/2020/01/22/tracking-your-heart-rate-variability-can-change-your-life/
By prioritizing recovery, your high intensity sessions, once or twice a week, can become even more intense and productive, and your progress will certainly become more rapid. You'll be less likely to get injured, more resilient, and healthier overall. Learning how to recover faster has dramatically improved my overall fitness and conditioning, and I know it will do the same for you. Let me know what you think!