Who doesn’t want to get just a little bit stronger, or more physically capable everyday? Hitting new PRs, pushing past old limits, conquering new feats of strength… It sounds pretty awesome! So how do we do it?
Of course a lot of what we see on social media, and in gyms that have different methodologies than Breakthrough is that it all comes from pushing harder, faster and longer… starfished in a pool of sweat on the floor of the gym, ready to come back and do it all again the next day… And as I look back at 2019, I can say without a doubt that I am stronger now, and made some nice, new Personal Records: I competed in the Spring 2019 Tactical Strength Challenge and added 5 pounds to my previous deadlift max, I did a kettlebell military press program that has me now able to press for reps what I could previously only do for singles, I re-certified my StrongFirst Barbell Instructor Skills and confidently added weight to my back squats, bench press and military press… a strong year!
Of course the most important part of making consistent progress is following a periodized training program, and knowing that you can only really peak a couple of times a year. But another huge component to getting overall gains in your physical performance is what you do in between your training sessions. Here is a secret – The magic is in the recovery!
Following a training session, your body actually breaks down muscle tissue in order to rebuild even stronger muscles. But if we want this to happen optimally, we need to set ourselves up for success in the repairing of our tissues post training.
The biggest factors we have working either for or against us are proper nutrition, and getting quality sleep. Even if your food is totally on point and you are getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, there are several other things to take into consideration for optimal recovery. Self massage/rolling out, mobility practice, breathing exercises, meditation practice, epsom salt baths, professional massage/active release therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and hot/cold therapy are all examples of methods that can support your recovering faster and stronger from your training.
Periodically, I like to do a little analysis of how much time I am really giving myself to recover, compared to how much time I spend training. I don’t mean just giving myself days off from training – I mean actively doing things designed to help me repair in between training sessions.
For example, I’m doing a variety type strength/endurance program, after just finishing a heavy barbell program, before I start Tactical Strength Challenge training again (next week!) So, I usually do 3 strength/endurance sessions a week, about 40 minutes or so in length, not including the time I would spend doing self massage and a RAMP (warm up) before the training session. My goal is to have my time spent on recovery at least equal to the time spent in training. If I take 3 sessions x 40 minutes each, that’s 120 minutes a week spent training, so how can I get 120 minutes of dedicated recovery time in the week? Doing self massage and a RAMP of mobility work for about 15 minutes prior to each training session gives me 45 minutes. Most days of the week I do a breathing and/or relaxation meditation practice, so let’s say that’s another 15 minutes x 5 days a week for a total of 75 minutes. Take the 45 minutes of rolling/RAMPing plus the 75 minutes of breath and mediation work, and I’m already at 120 minutes! Not bad!
Of course when we start training for longer durations, with more intensity, or more frequently during the week, we need to make sure we are including even more recovery strategies. As I’m ramping up for the Tactical Strength Challenge now, I will make sure to include additional time with the Therapy Balls in between sessions, epsom salt baths, and an occasional professional massage or chiropractic adjustment. And when I factor in that as a coach and gym owner, I have a very active job, I find that equal training to recovery time is really the bare minimum and I actually need more recovery hours to feel my best.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen that simply in reality. Calculating my recovery minutes reveals just how often I get “too busy” for my meditation practice… and how easy it is to skip over the self massage… or not really be mentally present when doing my RAMP because I’m doing too much multitasking. In order for any of these things to be truly beneficial, they need to be done mindfully so that you can really tune into the messages your body and brain are sending.
The truth is, we only get the benefit from the training that we can recover from. So really, our job is only halfway done when we leave the gym. Like anything worth doing, it may be a little challenging at first, but I strongly encourage taking a look at your training hours each week, and seeing if you can budget at least equal time for recovery. Try it for a few months, and just see if you don’t feel stronger, more resilient, more capable, and just better all around!
Strength & love,