Pieces of the Puzzle – Part 4 – 9 Ways to Renew, Recovery and Feel Your Best

This Part 4 of a 5 part series.  Up to this point, we have covered Mindset in part 1, Nutrition in part 2 and the Basics of Exercise in part 3.  If you missed the previous articles, take some time to review them before finishing this article.  Remember, fitness is not just about tough workouts and success takes a combination of all 5 aspects of fitness.

Recovery is one of my favorite topics. We are always reading about exercises, different workouts, new equipment, diets and more, but taking proper steps to rebuild and recover from tough workouts is a huge factor.

There are two types of people I would like to address in this article:

  • The newbie (aka: I’m sore and feel like Im gonna die) and
  • The die hard athlete or fitness junkie (aka: I workout everyday and never take a day off)

If you are just starting to workout, then you are probably a bit shocked. Symptoms include achy muscles, stiff joints, and other aches and pains. Starting a new workout plan can be a shock to your system and it is important to remember to take baby steps. Be patient, start slow and make small steps forward every week. If you take on too much, to quickly, you may overdo it and increase the chances of developing injuries and losing confidence.

On the flip side, you may be an exercise junkie. You love the gym, participate in sports, thrive on competition and can’t get enough activity. For example, a lot of the fighters that I train love to work hard and train multiple times per day. If this is you, then learning to schedule your training properly and learning to recover is essential. Increased workload takes its toll of your body and learning to recover will be the difference between a high level of performance or fatigue, exhaustion and poor performance.

More than likely, you are somewhere in the middle of these two examples, but the ideas we will discuss, will still help you elevate your game, get more out of your workouts and help you feel better between workouts. I am going to lay out a handful of tips and discuss each of them briefly. My suggestion is to start iwth one or two of these ideas. Implement them into your routine each week.

The more often you train, the more focused you should become on these techniques, because more work requires more recovery. So let’s get started…

1. Warm up (preventative) – As simple as this may seem, most people screw it up. Warming up is NOT a 5 minute walk on the treadmill. Warming up prepares our bodies for the work we are about to do, increasing blood flow to muscles, warming up joints and preparing our nervous systems. Neglecting a warm up is one of the quickest way to injury.

I prefer to start my workout using the foam roller, move on to small band work to warm up the hips and shoulders, then move into dynamic warm up drills and agility work. This works great for me, but your warm up may need to prepare you for other activities.

Bottom line: take ten minutes and get mentally and physically prepared for the work you’re about to do.

2. Corrective Exercise – all of us have imbalances, weaknesses and small ailments that have built up over time. In order to perform at your best and stay pain free, you have to address this. For example, most people have weakness in the hips, tightness in the neck and upper back and lack proper control of their core musculature. If this is not addressed properly, then you will develop some type of knee, back or shoulder pain very quickly.

Bottom line: Have a professional assess your movement patterns, identify imbalances or limitations, and create a plan for correcting these before problems arise.

3. Massage – Massage is one of the most amazing ways to stimulate muscle recovery and to allow the mind the relax. There are lots of different types of massage out there and its important to find a qualified therapist. A good therapist can help you address imbalances, relieve tightness, decrease soreness and speed recovery between workouts. Plus, it just feels good (most of the time :)).

Bottom line: Ask around and interview a handful of therapists. Tell them your goals and limitations, then schedule a consistent time to meet them every week, bi weekly or monthly. Just depends on your training volume, availability and budget.

4. Self Myo-fascial Release – Foam rollers, tennis balls, peanuts (2 tennis balls taped together), The Stick and other tools have become a life saver for myself and other people at our gym. These are a simple way to start workouts, break up adhesion (knots, tightness) in your muscles and help you move easier. A invaluable tool to use in between massages, ART and other therapy.

Bottom line: Buy one and use it frequently.

5.  Ice – Ice is one of the most underrated “fix it” methods. If you train intensely or recently started a new program, you will inevitably work hard, strain a muscle, sprain a joint or develop some type of small pain. Pain is basically inflammation in an area. Ice is a simple way to reduce inflammation and reduce pain. You can use ice massage, on muscles, after a tough workout or take an ice bath (intense but effective) or simply use ice packs around a sore area. This is a lifesaver as your intensity or workload increases.

Bottom line: Drop the pills and start with ice if simple joint or muscle pain comes your way.

6.  Contrast Showers – Increased blood flow can help flush out lactic acid in sore muscles. If you are stiff, sore or simply run down toward the end of the week, contrast showers may help ya speed recovery. Simply let the water run over the sore area and alternate between bouts of cold and hot water. I usually do cold blast for 10-20 seconds, followed by 1 minute of hot water. It is an “eye opener”, but you typically go numb after the second cycle. Well worth the initial shock :).

Bottom line: Feeling a bit stiff and sluggish? Add these contrast showers to your routine.

7.  Time Off – This is a big one for the exercise junkie, especially for an athlete juggling multiple training sessions per day. Stress (exercise) breaks our bodies down. Our body then rebuilds to become stronger or more resistant to that stress, if proper rest and nutrition are made available. Lots o food athletes and competitive people love to just work hard and neglect taking proper time off to allow their bodies to recover.

Bottom line: Take at least one day COMPLETELY OFF and cycle the intensity of your other workouts to allow your body to rebuild. You should be getting stronger and making progress each week.

8.  Catch some Zs – Amazing things happen when you sleep.  If you are training hard, then I would recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night.  Ideally you would go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 7am.  There are lots details I will not dive into, but the bottom line is that a good nights sleep helps repair your body, refresh your mind and build strength in your whole system.  Without it, you will be a step behind mentally and physically.

Bottom line:  Turn your tv off, read something (non work related), drop the caffeine, brain dump to dos, and allow yourself to relax before hitting the hay.

9.  Proper Nutrition – Last, but not least, is the fuel you put into your body. Good nutrition supplies our body with water, amino acids (building blocks for muscle), minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, fatty acids and energy. When proper fuel is provided, the body is able to recover, rebuild and become stronger, in a shorter amount of time.  Unfortunately, the average American’s diet is void of all the essential things we need to recover and perform at our best. In order to separate yourself from the competition and perform at your best, you have to take nutrition seriously. It affects every aspect of your body, mindset and performance all day long.

Bottom line: If God made it, eat it. Get the garbage food out of your life and start eating better quality foods. I’d also recommend using a food journal to help you become conscious of your eating habits.

Utilizing these techniques helps people progress faster than they ever thought possible. Start by using one or two of these techniques, make them a habit in your life and then add other tips as you go. Taking these tips seriously allows you to to feel better and to perform more work, more often when necessary.

Next up: The Power of a Family
– learn how having a support system, a team or a supportive family around you can help every aspect of your fitness plan.

Stay tuned!

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  1. says

    Great article! I could really use the advice from the Warming Up section. I always get too impatient and shorten my warm ups. My arms could use a warm up before a 3 hour surf sesh. I found the Contrast Showers section super interesting. Never thought about switching cold to hot, definitely going to give it a go. Amen to catching Zs, time off, and proper nutrition!

  2. says

    This was huge to be able to see the best way to recover from a workout-I ususally work out everyday but don't do the best job allowing my body time and means to recover. I have been frequently getting sore muscles when I run and it feels as if they are getting worn out. These are some great tips to remember!

  3. says

    Very interesting stuff! I was especially intrigued by the corrective exercise section. It's so true that we all have weaknesses and I believe that many of us choose to ignore them. I know that I personally hate working on things that are weaker because it's typically harder and takes time away from doing what I'm "good at". Thanks to this article, I now know the importance of identifying my imbalances and limitations so as to improve my overall physical condition and prevent injury.

  4. says

    This blog could not have come at a better time. Being a college student, I rarely get enough sleep and find it somewhat difficult to turn down quick meals. On top of studying nonstop, I am also an athlete; I am familiar with ice and massages, but have never tried foam rollers, I’ll have to try it! Time off is another thing that I rarely give myself, I think that with better time management I could give myself more free time to just relax and not stress about things. I have experienced the results of not warming up enough a few times and often rush through it, This is something that everyone has a tendency to do when; but I’ve grown to learn that though warm ups may be monotonous, rehabbing an injury is far worse.

  5. says

    This is a very interesting article, and I would love to learn more about each of these different techniques to recovery. I know first hand that it is easy to pay little attention to recovery, but this article really reinforced its importance. I look forward to applying many of these techniques to my own life and recommending them to others.

  6. says

    I used to not warm up, stretch or foam roll because I saw it as a waste of time. I also used to work out any chance I got and at times I would work out super hard, but them binge and there would go all my hard work out the door. I really like this blog it is definitely informative. And by the way foam rollers work wonders highly recommend them.

  7. says

    my favorite article so far because it shows that working out isn't just throwing soem weights around at the gym… It shows that working out is also focused on stretching, SMR, ice, rest, recovery and healthy eating. That stuff is my passion!

  8. says

    There are many variables such as stability, mobility, posture, coordination, strength, grip, agility, speed, power, nutrition, rest, and recovery. All of theses need to be taken into consideration and utilized in a good training program depending upon the individual and what sport or daily activity he/she is pursuing. Ir asses each individual and creates a program that best suits that person.

  9. says

    There are many variables such as stability, mobility, posture, coordination, strength, grip, agility, speed, power, nutrition, rest, and recovery. All of theses need to be taken into consideration and utilized in a good training program depending upon the individual and what sport or daily activity he/she is pursuing. Ir asses each individual and creates a program that best suits that person.

  10. Madison Murphy says

    I used to not warm up at all before I worked out and I was always in pain after, I also never foam rolled before IR. Now that I do both I see how important it really is! It helps with your workout and it also helps with your recovery! Of course nutrition is key. Poor nutrition makes me feel bad about myself and my body. When you eat good you feel good. I absolutely agree with the massages! Totally want one now! I would get them weekly to help with sore muscles if I could afford it! Great blog very helpful! :)

  11. Nicholas Tsutsui says

    The counterintuitive fact that growth happens during rest rather than during a workout, makes it no wonder why recovery is often under appreciated. This is a fantastic guide for anyone, regardless of athletic experience. Personally, I will take number seven and eight first, those being time off and more sleep. But if time is a factor, I know the other processes are equally as effective if not more, and take significantly less time.

  12. Derek Garcia says

    This one post that everyone needs to read and I am sure gets a lot of people wondering and changing their routines because they are missing some of these. We can sometimes think that we are being productive working out hard, but not taking care of our bodies outside of the gym will really hurt in the long run.

  13. Alexis Vargas says

    This article just taught me how to recover in so many different ways. I play a lot of soccer and go to IR at least 4 times a week, so I’m always sore. At IR they’re different everyday so I don’t complain too much but I should start using ice more since some parts of legs are always sore. I think the contrast showers are unique as well, I don’t think being sore will be much of a problem anymore.

  14. Marissa Shelton says

    A lot of people forget the number one thing you should do before a workout, is warm up; people skip warming up and get injuries and wonder why. This article is great at touching on the points of how one should properly take actions towards recovery. I think it is great that this article describes the low and the high of the work out spectrum; shows that though there is a low sedentary lifestyle there is also an extreme excessive lifestyle of fitness that is not healthy either. It is important to find a balance between the two. I like the idea of the contrast shower, I have never heard of it, I will try it sometime!

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