My Top Tips on How to Maximise Your Recovery Days
The last three months have seen me completely overhaul my training, in preparation for a mountain Ultra-Marathon. I’ve gone from training and competing as a sprinter, where I didn’t run further than 600m in 5 years, into Olympic Weightlifting where there was no cardio at all, to running a marathon after 8 weeks of training.
It’s been incredibly taxing on my mind and body. Fortunately, with the help of my friend and coach Adam Fedorciow, I have incorporated some very effective recovery methods.
Why Are Recovery Days Important?
Whether you are training for general fitness, or you have some very specific performance-based goals you should put just as much thought into your recovery days as you do your training days.
What many people don’t realise is that your workouts only provide the stimulus for change; the change itself (hopefully a decrease in body fat or an increase in muscle and/or strength) actually takes place during the periods between workouts – your recovery days.
There are three areas where recovery occurs – mental, physical and emotional. Recovery is where the growth and healing occurs in each of these areas.
A Big Problem When it Comes to Recovery Days…
As a Personal Trainer based in London, I see first-hand many people that are not taking their recovery seriously. There is this mentality that recovery days are a waste of time and the harder you are “smashing” workouts the better. This mentality is perpetuated by trainers and popular boutique gyms that offer intense HIIT workouts, but no slower recovery-based classes.
Long term this can damage your immune system as well as cause insomnia, weight gain, and injury, but worst of all it can perpetuate an unhealthy relationship with exercise, where exercise is a form of punishment for poor lifestyle habits.
Essentially, the harder you train, the harder you need to recover.
My Top Recovery Methods
I have always been aware of the importance of recovery but this year I have put extra care and attention into it. I have experimented with lots of different methods and below are the ones that seem to be the most effective and I encourage all of you to try!
Sleep and Napping
I talk a lot about the importance of sleep in order to achieve optimal health and performance. Hands down the most effective recovery strategy is increasing the amount of sleep I get at night (I aim for 9 hours) and incorporating 20-90 minute naps after intense long runs and wherever I feel necessary.
You guys should know by now that I am a big advocate of using temperature extremes as a way of creating positive changes in the body. Ever since I met the Ice Man and Learned The Wim Hof Method, I have talked a lot about why you should do cold water therapy, but not too much about the benefits of using saunas and steam rooms. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that frequent visits to a sauna are associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke. At least once per week, I would do a hot/cold therapy routine.
Try this Hot Therapy and Cold Therapy routine for yourself:
- 15 Minute Sauna (or as long as you can handle)
- 4-5 minute ice cold shower or plunge pool
x 3 Times
The combination of hot and cold can relax muscles, flush toxins (by-products of exercise) and reduce inflammation which will all help you to recover quicker after intense workouts. For me, this method was extremely effective, especially for relaxing the muscles after hours of running.
I don’t need to mention how important eating nutrient dense foods full of the right micronutrients is in the recovery process. My diet didn’t change drastically but I did increase the amount of quality carbohydrates that I ate on recovery days – and this made a big difference. My favourite carbohydrate sources – sweet potato, plantain, leafy greens, and in season berries and cherries.
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This has been a big focus for me, I have always known the importance of flexibility in an effective training program, but nothing I have ever trained for has had this much of a negative impact on my flexibility. I have had to continuously work on it, especially on my recovery days. I would aim to do 5-6 mini stretching sessions throughout the day usually lasting about 10 minutes each.
The last three months has been incredibly taxing on me mentally, I am usually someone that has a very consistent positive attitude and sustained energy levels – but the last three months has been an emotional rollercoaster. I experienced extremely low moods and energy levels which made it difficult for me to be motivated with training and work. I counteracted this by incorporating daily mindful practice, whether it was 10 minutes breath work, meditation or immersing myself in nature with my phone off, it all made a difference.
? ? ? ? ? ☘ ?It’s due to be a lovely weekend! If you can, get out and immerse yourself in nature and TURN YOUR PHONE OFF.? ? ? ? ? ☘ ? This is one of the many tactics that I use to reconnect, rebalance and reset after a hectic working week. Living in London means that I am exposed to a higher baseline of stress from noise, air pollution, other people, traffic. You don’t necessarily realise that these stressors are having an effect on you, but they do, long term this can contribute to mental and physical illness. ?? I personally am very sensitive to these stressors, but as soon as I am outside in a natural environment it’s like a weight has been lifted off my chest. So what are you waiting for? Get outside and explore the beautiful country that you live in – it’s free! #mentalhealth #explore #nature
I am a firm believer that you should get all your nutrients from real food, but sometimes it’s worth adding extra supplementation. I have been consistently taking Fish Oils by Bare Biology, Magnesium and Vitamin D for eight months now, it has made a big difference to my recovery and immune system. Something new that I introduced was Cordyceps by Four Sigmatic. I would have one sachet after lunch to help with energy levels. Cordyceps boost energy levels but they aren’t a stimulant which means less stress on the body. Endurance training is incredibly stressful, so I had to be careful with caffeine intake to limit stress.
Your Recovery Days
I highly recommend giving my top tips on how to maximise your recovery day a go, some might work for you, others won’t. Like with training, recovery is incredibly personal, and everyone is unique. Just remember that if you want to reach your full potential, you will take your recovery just as seriously as your training.