Rules Of Recovery
No matter how hard you work out you will never grow....with out recovering that is. Recovery is just as important (if not more important) than the exercise (type, intensity, amount, etc) you perform. You do not get bigger and stronger from lifting heavy weights. You get bigger and stronger by recovering from lifting heavy weights. Maximizing your recovery is vital for optimizing your progress, even preventing regression. In this article I will cover ways to maximize your recovery and list some rules to recovery during setbacks such as extreme muscular soreness, illness, joint pain, and etc (Note: This by no means takes the place of seeing a doctor, but is a guide to benefit your recovery).
MAXIMIZING YOUR RECOVERY
Get Better Sleep
You see how I did not just say "get more sleep"? Getting BETTER sleep yields better recovery. Yes, amount of sleep is important, but if you are waking up every hour and your body does not go into the REM stage (deep sleep). Focus on quality over quantity (though quantity is still important). You can improve your sleep with supplements such as Melatonin, L-Theanine, and GABBA. You can also improve your sleep by going to bed at consistent times, decreasing your consumption of caffeine, minimizing light in the area you are sleeping, and avoiding an increased heart rate around the time you go to bed.
Get More Nutrients
The "supplement versus food" debate is old and honestly....pathetic. Just get in your nutrients. If you need protein/amino acids, then you can either buy protein sources of food (eggs, meats, spirulina, etc) or buy protein powder. If you need carbohydrates then you can buy supplements such as gatorade or a dextrose focused post work out powder, or you can buy carbohydrate food sources such as rice, potatoes, fruit, etc. If you need more fats in your diet than you can buy supplements such as MCT oil, coconut oil, fish oil, or CLA's, or you can buy fat food sources such as peanut/almond butter or olive/vegetable oil. If you are lacking any micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) then you can either buy vitamins or buy the food sources that contain those nutrients. This is not about whether you should go for supplements or food, rather this should be about getting in those nutrients through whichever way fits better in your life (balancing cost, convenience, and need).
Balance Your Stress And Recovery
Balancing stress does not only include your work outs (though it does also pertain to lifting). This also pertains to relationships, work, family, political changes, etc. Your overal stress is going to have a huge impace on your recovery. Recovery is not just muscular. It is also psychological and neurological. The stress of weight training can be balanced with times of less intense/shorter duration training to allow recovery. The stress of life itself can be balanced by doing things you enjoy and taking some time to "get away from it all". Mental stress can be as cotostraphic to your fitness progress just as much as nonrecovered muscular stress. Mental stress can build up and produce a "burn out" to which you start to become less motivated, consistent, and disciplined. Utilizing time to recover from mental fatigue will allow you to stay motivated and consistent, while allowing yourself time to recover from physical stress (weight training) will allow you to grow bigger and stronger.
RULES TO RECOVERY
Now that you know how to maximize your overal recovery. It is time to get more specific when it comes to weight training (or exercise in general). Though I am not going into the science of things (due to article length reasons), below I will explain some rules you can follow in order to recover from your training during different situations (guidelines from my own experience and the experience of others).
During times of joint pain, you may believe that completely stopping all exercise with that joint would be your best option. Though stopping exercise would be beneficial in times of severe inflammation, stopping exercise during slight joint pain reduces the amount of blood that flows around the joint. Reduced blood flow causes stiffness and reduces your ability to fight inflammation. During times of minor joint pain it is wise to go light on exercises in order to keep from creating more pain, but you still need to perform exercises involving that joint in order to get blood flowing through that joint, which will aid in recovery.
Drained Nervous System
If you have been training intense for quite some time, you may have heard a friend or lifting partner mention having a "drained nervous system". What they mean is that you are providing so much neurological stimulus that your body is not recovering from. Your body's ability to contract muscle begins to weaken, hence feeling weak even when your muscles are recovered. During times of feeling like your nervous system is drained, keeping the repetitions the same and decreasing the weight to about 70% of what you did the time prior will allow your nervous system to recover. Some people believe because you are decreasing the repetitions that you should increase the repetitions. By doing so, you would still have the intensity high even with lighter weights (which would be counterproductive towards the goal of recovery). You may feel like your work out is counter productive being so light with the same repetitions, but you have to keep in mind, just like stated above when discussing "maximizing your recovery" you grow and get stronger by RECOVERING FROM WEIGHT HEAVY WEIGHTS. In order to recover you must take some time to back off.
This is something I have copious amounts of experience with. Being someone who gets so horribly sick that I have to stay in bed for a whole week every winter (even being sick for atleast a couple months) I have learned how to maintain my progress during times of illness. During times of illness two things happen when you exercise; you get light headed and you get winded. In order to avoid your illness keeping you back, you can exercise without raising your heart rate. In order to do so you can lower the repetitions and stay away from failure. High repetitions and sets to failure will increase your heart rate, which will limit the amount of work you will be able to do. Think of your work outs as "practice". Perform the same exercises that you would, but only perform the amount of repetitions you can until your heart rate increases to the point of heavy breathing. The goal is to provide as much stimulus as you can without exhausting the body's systems (respiratoy, cardiovascular, immune, etc). This may happen at 5 repetitions at 70% of your one repetition maximum, it may happen at 1 repetition at 85% of your one repetition maximum. The goal is to keep the same weight (if possible) and tax the body only the amount it is able to recover from both short term and long (long term being throughout your time of illness and short term being throughout the day, even just between sets). I would not recommend the extra "fluff work" during times of illness, but adding restorative activities such as walking can aid in blood flow and recovery.
Muscle soreness is confusing to most people. You have people telling you to "work through the soreness" and then you have others telling you that soreness means the muscle is torn and needs to be rested in order to grow. Unfortunately, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. What you do when sore is determined by how sore you are and what kind of "soreness" it is. The more sore you are, the more precautions you must takes. The less sore you are, the more you are allowed to weight train during that given period of soreness. There are plenty of ways to go about exercising during times of soreness. You can train heavy while minimizing the repetitions for that amount of weight (performing 3 repetitions when you are used to performaing 5 with that weight), or minimizing the weight (performing the same amount of repetitions and sets, but lowering the weight by 10-30%). Either way minimizes the amount of muscle damage performed, while promoting blood flow, further maintaining motor patterns, and even providing a slight neurological stimulus (if using the heavy weight/low repetition method).
In order to maximize your progress, you must maximize your recovery.
You can maximize your recovery by:
You Can Also Maximize Recovery By Following The Rules Of Recovery: