People and clients are always interested in what their program looks like, which exercises they are doing, how many sets and reps they are performing, and how many times a week they should train. An important aspect that is often not focused on or prioritised enough is recovery.
Recovery is one of the most important aspects of a training program. Without adequate recovery you cannot adapt to your program and improve. If you’re not seeing the results you are after or not getting stronger of fitter, it may not necessarily mean you need to change your program, you may just need to look at how you are recovering to allow your body to adapt to the training stimulus.
So how can we maximize recovery?
SMR and Massage
Self-myofascial release and massage can be a used to improve recovery. Use of tools such as a foam roller or a massage ball have been shown to have positive effects on soreness and fatigue following exercise. Including SMR the day after a workout can help reduce soreness and promote recovery.
Ice baths are used in a lot of elite sporting environments to try and increase recovery so the athlete can be ready to go for training or the next game. Ice baths, or cold water immersion have been shown to reduce muscle soreness (DOMS). This can be another tool you could use to increase recovery between workouts.
While not as heavily researched as ice baths or cold water immersion, saunas may be useful as a recovery tool. Short periods in a sauna can increase blood flow and promote relaxation (reducing stress will also improve recovery). Studies have also shown that 15 minutes in a sauna can lead to an increase in growth hormone which could enhance lean muscle growth.
Sleep is a commonly overlooked aspect which can have the biggest influence over your ability to recover from training sessions. If you are struggling to improve or not seeing results from your training, the first place to look is at your sleep. If you are not getting 8-9 hours’ sleep a night you may be impacting your recovery. Look to get into a routine with your sleep (same time each day), and aim for at least 8 hours sleep per night.
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas of things you can incorporate in your week to assist in your recovery. Try programming your recovery the same way you would program a work out – start by picking a few tools from the above list and schedule 20-40 minutes 4-5 times per week that you will dedicate to recovery.