You hear night and day about how hard people train and how hard people work in the weightroom, on the field, or in the pool. They beat the snot out of their bodies and put them through the ultimate torture in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of their sport. But what often gets lost in the shuffle of million dollar contracts, medals, and media frenzies about where a certain athlete is traded, is all the work done behind the scenes. For all the tearing down an athlete does to their body, wouldn’t it make just as much sense to spend as much time building it back up?
In my opinion, recovery may be the most important part of training because without it, there is no future training. Recovery isn’t just stretching after you finish a workout. It isn’t a cool down run after practice or grabbing a protein shake after a heavy weights session. Recovery is a 24 hour a day process that can’t be taken lightly, otherwise you will never operate at 100%. Recovery encompasses your nutrition, supplementation, sleep, stretching, rolling, and anything else that makes your body feel better and gets you ready to go for the next round. If you take any of the above lightly then you are already at a severe disadvantage to your competition because they know it’s important and are doing their best to get better.
The methods that can be used for recovery are endless. You can get the job done by rolling around on PVC, foam, or a lacrosse ball. Some people prefer the old school PE class approach of just stretching. But even this can be done with some pizzazz. Elastic bands or partners can be introduced to target different areas and provide a deeper stretch or simply to mix things up. A more technological approach can be used with e-stim units or cryotherapy units. If they are available, saunas and cold tubs work wonders on the body and can help you feel better and able to move around with less stiffness. Lastly, a solid nutrition and supplementation plan might be the most crucial aspect of recovery. You would be surprised how many people can fix the most glaring of issues with a tweak of their diet. You throw a good sleep schedule in and you will be running as efficiently as possible.
Everyone has their preferences, and some bodies respond better to certain techniques than others. For instance, a teammate of mine will never take an ice bath. He will sit in a hot tub twice a day, but ask him to take an ice bath and you would think I asked him to give his dog up for research. For me my Achille’s Heel is active recovery that involves running, biking, etc. I hate doing this type of stuff because quite frankly, I find it boring. I would rather go do some light weights or take my dog on a walk, but even then I still get bored and distracted because I hate doing the same thing for an extended period of time.
Recovery is sometimes a very overlooked, and under-glorified process in being a good athlete. You need to work recovery just as much as you work your technique if you want to function at your best. Certain things works better than others and certain people have their preferences, but you need to pick up a few things that work for you an DO THEM! Some of these, like sleep and food, cannot be ignored, but others can be mixed and matched until a winning combination is found. Next time you are reflecting on the last few crappy training sessions, ask yourself, are you doing the best you can to recover and grow?