Rest/Recovery Days, Part 2: How to maximize your gains on a recovery day
Last time, we talked about how important it is to take recovery days from your training. If you missed that post, go back and check it out before you read this one! This week, I’m giving you some homework. Here are 5 ways to maximize your performance, by making the most of your recovery day (which by now you should know you desperately need).
- Manage your stress. High intensity exercise is incredibly beneficial to our health at the proper dose, and while a bit too much can decrease our overall performance, it’s rarely the cause for adrenal fatigue on it’s own. More often than not people who develop adrenal fatigue have chronic stressors in their work or personal life that they have not developed proper coping mechanisms for, leaving them in a chronically stressed/sympathetic state. If you want to maximize your recovery and be able to workout more times per week without detrimental health effects or decreased performance, you have to learn to manage your stress. This can include listening to music, meditation, revamping your organizational system, painting or some other hobby, or even therapy.
- Take a yoga class. Unless you live under a rock you’re probably aware of the many benefits of yoga. You may still think yoga isn’t for you, you’re not zen enough, or that it can’t help you achieve your goals, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Yoga helps train core strength and body control that will translate to gains in the gym, at a much lower intensity (ie: without turning the sympathetic system on). It also improves mobility and can be a great way to manage your stress. As if all those things weren’t enough, it helps you learn to control and focus on your breathing which is vital to improving aerobic work capacity and translates to improved performance in the gym too.
- Get 30-60 minutes of sustained aerobic activity. There’s no question that constantly varied high intensity exercise is the most efficient way to improve your overall strength, fitness, and especially anaerobic capacity. Even so, there is still a need for longer, sustained aerobic activity at the right dose. Some examples might include going for a hike or a leisurely bike ride, a brisk walk, or even a long walk with a weight vest on (try it, it’s pretty tough, and also looks bad ass obviously). Pick something you can maintain for 30-60 minutes, and ideally something you’ll enjoy too. You should be able to maintain control of your breath and speak at any point during the exercise to ensure you’re still aerobic (not anaerobic). For those of you who have heart rate monitors, try to stay under your max aerobic heart rate (180 – your age, for most people). This type of activity once or twice a week on a recovery day will strengthen your aerobic system. Having a strong aerobic system will increase your overall performance and recovery, reduce your injury risk, decrease inflammation, balance your hormonal system, and, this one is big, enhance your body’s ability to utilize it’s own fat stores for energy, as opposed to carbohydrates consumed which is huge if you’re trying to lose weight and maximize your gains at the same time!
- Make time for prehab exercises. Ever been to a physical therapist? Or a free movement screen? What about ever asked a coach about a nagging problem and been given mobility/stability prehab homework to do? I’m betting 90% of you would answer yes to one of those. Now, how many of you actually make time for these on a regular basis? (cue the crickets). I’m guessing the percentage is significantly less. Prehab exercises aren’t fun or sexy, but they are just as important, and arguably more important that your actual time spent working out. The better you move and the faster you fix dysfunctional movement patterns, the faster your performance will improve. Not only that but you’ll be at far less risk for injuries that could cause a major setback in performance.
- Dial in your nutrition and sleep. These two are obvious, and should be done on all days, not just recovery days. That being said, they are incredibly important and most people don’t prioritize them nearly enough so it bears repeating. Eat real and nutritious food, preferably locally sourced and minimally processed, that makes you feel good (not a sugar high kind of good though), and get your 7-8 hours of quality sleep for better performance and recovery.
Here’s to recovering like a BOSS,