Don’t be like me. Don’t learn about the importance of recovery the hard way.
As you may know, I experienced my own major weight-loss transformation a few years back. Within that time, also gained a passion to compete at the sports of CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting at a higher level.
Even though my purpose had changed, the need for recovery, optimizing my overall health and listening to my body had not. In fact, it had only increased.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
Throughout the years, I definitely ignored my body a good bit. Constantly wanting more from myself, I pushed my body to places it hadn’t been before -- over and over again. I have gone long periods with minimal rest days, with poor sleep on top of it. I have learned that overtraining and under-recovering has led to an overall increase in inflammation, hormonal dysfunction and injury.
After years of “doing it wrong,” I have finally learned to listen to what my body is telling me. I have learned to take a step back when my body is feeling run down, and I have also learned how to know when my body is ready to get back into action -- as opposed to guessing when it is.
It has taken my stubborn self a while to learn this, so I wanted to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned along the way so you don’t make the same mistakes:
- Eat whole foods with healing properties. Vegetables are your friend.
- Drink plenty of water and herbal tea (minimize caffeine intake)
- SLEEP! Prioritize sleep over exercise. As LeBron James said after scoring 46 points in 46 minutes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night, “Sleep is the best recovery you can have.” Aim for 7-9 hours a night and adjust your workout volume and intensity accordingly. Training extra hard when your body is run down and stressed because you think it’s your “stress relief” will actually have the opposite effect. It will put your body under more stress and dig you deeper into a recovery deficit.
- Take both full rest days and active recovery days. It is not cool to train hard 10 days in a row. It is also not helpful to follow an all-or-nothing approach. Active recovery could be anything from mobility work to a long walk, or hiking, swimming, biking, etc.
- Write down five things every morning or night that you’re grateful for in your journal or somewhere you will see it every day. This positive reinforcement can have surprisingly powerful recuperative effects on the mind and body.
- Take bubble baths. Adding 2 cups of Epsom Salt will help mitigate soreness and detoxify the body.
- Read a book. You know, like an actual book. With paper and words and everything.
- Meditate every day. Take at least 5-10 minutes daily to clear your head and bring you back to center. Headspace is a great app to help you learn this powerful recovery practice.
- Spend plenty of time with friends and family. (Unless they stress you out.)
- Go for a massage often. Not only is it relaxing, it will flush out lactic acid and toxins from muscle and connective tissues.
Along with proper nutrition and fitness, I recommend that you find one or two of these things and begin to implement them daily. You don’t have to do all of them, but find something that works for you and practice it often. Prioritize recovery as much as you do your training.
If you’re exercising regularly, following a nutrition plan suited to your goals at least 80 percent of the time and you’re still not seeing the results you want, lack of recovery could be the culprit. People are quick to change exercise routines or diets when they hit a plateau, but recovery is the hidden pathway to your fitness goals that often gets neglected.
So learn from me … you don’t have to do it the hard way.