If you are reading this blog then there is a good chance you really love training. I mean if you don’t then we can’t be friends.
Whether you love training or not you will no doubt have a few different motivations as to why you train in the gym. There are so many reasons why we use our precious spare time to pick heavy things up and down until we can’t anymore which can often result in a lot of discomfort and pain.
Sounds odd when you put it like that doesn’t it?
Whatever your motivations are, ensuring you recover from training so you never miss a weeks training is something you should always take a lot of interest in. Whether you want to stay in the game longer, want to avoid injury or just get the most of of your training, recovery is a big part of making progress in the gym long term.
In this blog I am going to delve into three key strategies that will help you recover from training and help keep you fighting fit so you can continue to make progress.
Lifting weights in the gym is the fun stuff. If you are anything like me then the gym is where you are in your element as you look over your log book and see where you can push things week in week out. That satisfaction as you walk out of the gym after an hour of toil and sweat knowing you just got a bit better and have ticked off another quality session is epic. But what can we do outside of training to ensure we have sessions like this as frequently as possible and to ensure the next time we walk in the gym we are ready to train hard?
A big part of being able to recover from training will come down to nutrition but for the purpose of this blog I want to focus on things away from calories, macros and supplements.
Below are three key areas I would really advise you consider to help you recover from training and question how seriously you take them.
Sleep your way to recover from training
When we talk about rest from training you may think about a day off the gym or sitting on the sofa binge watching Suits on Netflix. However the one time we are at pure rest is when we are sleeping. To recover from training we need to allow our muscles to rebuild, allow inflammation to subside and also let our CNS (central nervous system) take a time out. Sleep is a great time to do this. But realistically how many of us get good quality sleep? I mean 6-8 hours of deep un-interrupted sleep consistently. It’s something I personally have to work hard on. But if you can nail your sleep you will really being doing a lot of good to get quality recovery from training.
Below are some easy tips to help you get a better nights sleep and overall routine.
- Your sleep environment – Having a good sleeping environment is key to a good nights sleep. Ensuring the room is as dark as possible, you unplug all electrical’s and also having the room a little colder can help with a deeper nights sleep.
- Pre bed routine – This can be really important to help get the best quality sleep possible. First of all try and have a good hour off all phones, laptops and watching TV before bed. If you have things on your mind for the next day then writing these things down on a notepad before bed can help you relax knowing you won’t forget them. A light alarm can be a good addition to your bedroom. This is where the light slowly fades as you drift asleep and then increases light slowly in the morning for your alarm time. Basically mirroring the sun setting and rising which help you drift off naturally and rise for a good overall nights sleep.
- Consistency – Going to bed the same time most evenings and rising at the same time is also vital for a good routine. Your body is very good at adjusting to a routine so if you can try and be as consistent as possible then you will reap the rewards.
De-loading to recover from training
If you don’t know what a de-load is then it’s probably high time you started utilising them. The stress and fatigue that occurs during consistent training is something your body can deal with as it adapts and becomes stronger and more efficient over time. However after a good few weeks this stress can really start to rack up and this is where de-load weeks are very effective. These weeks will allow the stress of training to drop off and let your recovery catchup. Sometimes de-load weeks can happen by default such a week away on holiday which results in you having time off from training. Or you may you aren’t able to get to the gym one week due to work commitments.
Just ensure as a rule of thumb you look to take de-load weeks every 4-6 weeks on average to allow you to properly recover and adapt from training. The time frame will depend on many factors such as training frequency, whether you are dieting or not and other stressors occurring in your life at that time. For these de-load weeks you can either reduce the sessions you do, the exercises within them or look at just reducing the loads you are lifting (normally looking to see a reduction of around 20% of your loads maybe more on bigger movements). For more information on whether you need a de-load HIT THIS LINK to see a recent blog I wrote on de-loading.
Mobility to recover from training
Lifting weights and training in the gym is the fun stuff. However doing mobility and stretching is quite honestly boring. But the longer I have trained the more I realise that it’s such an important part of training to keep you injury free, moving well and basically in the game for longer. It’s also important to remember that the more muscle mass you build the more chances you have for mobility issues and getting less flexible. Doing some extra mobility work at the end of a session may seem like the last thing you want to do but your body will thank you. Whether it actually helps you recover from training or not it will certainly help you keep mobile enough to train hard consistently and not have to take time off due to small niggles or injuries.
Below are three things I would try and add into your routine.
- Foam rolling and trigger point work – It hurts like hell and is tedious but just 10 minutes a day of foam rolling your quads or getting a lacrosse ball stuck into your glutes will really aid you long term. If your knees or lower back start to hurt the chances are it’s cause you have tight muscles pulling you left and right. Get some good trigger point work into these areas and this issues will soon settle. When you do your release work try and find the tight areas and then let the ball or roller stay on that fixed point and let your muscle ease into it. It will hurt but hold it for 1-2 minutes and it should start to release, do this most days and then move onto other tight areas.
- Yoga – I really feel that at least one session of yoga a week will really help your overall mobility and ability to train hard and recover from training. Signing up to a class will give you the accountability to actually commit to mobility and the spending a good hour on tight areas rather than a token 30 seconds after training will be massively beneficial.
- Warm up slowly – I see so many people walk into the gym and just start lifting. You need to be much smarter than this. Take your time to warm up your body before training and this can be a great time to work on those tighter areas before you lift. Spend a good ten minutes with some dynamic movements on the muscle groups you are about to train and then slowly build up your loads before starting your first working set can be a good structure to follow. For back squats this could be starting with bodyweight squats, squats with the bar, squats with 25% of your 1RM (1 rep max), 50%, 65% and then you should be pretty warm to go hard.
I hope you found this blog useful and it certainly made me think about a few things as I wrote it. Just remember recovery is important and if you don’t take it seriously you may have issues down the line.
Look after your body and it will look after you.