Coaches say it all the time, because it’s true: You can only train as hard as you can recover. Recovery – the time between training sessions – is where the body repairs and strengthens. If recovery is ignored by athletes, then training session intensity will eventually need to be lessened to avoid injury, sickness or burnout. Here are some suggestions on ways to maximize recovery.
There are plenty of research studies out there about how much sleep athletes need on a regular basis. Most of them report seven to nine hour on a regular basis. Unfortunately, sleep is not something that you can cram for on the weekends and then ignore during the week. Personally, there is no such thing as too much sleep, especially when training load is high. Getting eight or nine (or more!) hours of sleep at night, every night, is one of the best things an athlete can do for recovery. Going into training sessions in a sleep debt is often more damaging than any fitness gains that would be made during the session.
EAT FOR NUTRITION
The best thing you can do to help your body recover from training sessions is to put food in your mouth that is nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory on a daily basis. Food is not a band-aid. If you only eat healthy one meal a day, or one day a week, how can you expect your body to handle the daily stress of training? Try to make good choices throughout your day, and on a rest day, take the time to prioritize nutrition.
Like many athletes, I am guilty of ignoring the self-massage tools and then dragging my busted body into a PT’s office looking for a magic fix. Taking 5-10 minutes a day to treat the body with foam rolling, use of a lacrosse ball, super nova, and some light stretching can go a long way towards promoting recovery. Compression, ice, heat, and elevation of legs are tools used by athletes to help muscles recover and feel better before and after hard workouts.
PROPER WARM-UP & COOL-DOWN
The warm-up and the cool-down are keys to the recovery process. Skipping a warm-up and launching straight into a hard training session or skipping a cool-down after is a dangerous habit to get into, as these sessions help the body transition from stillness to work and then back to stillness.
Your brain needs a break from training just like your body does. Mental recovery is very individual, but scheduling time in the life for a quiet walk, meditation, light yoga, social activities with friends, spending time with another hobby or just sitting quietly is just as important as scheduling in training sessions.