Imagine your body as a vehicle, a Lamborghini, if you will. What do you suppose would happen if you raced such a fine machine, at its maximum output, on a daily basis? Then, imagine you raced that baby at Mach 10, every day, without ever turning it off or refueling it. How long do you think your Lambo’ would run? Not very long, right? Your body responds very similarly to being constantly taxed, yet unrecovered/unrested. Without proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, mobilization/stretching, and maintenance, your body can only give so much. If you don’t recover properly from not only what you do in the gym, but also from the toll your every day life takes on your system, you will eventually hit a wall and likely crash (injure yourself) and burn out (cease to see results from your efforts).
Consider these 5 crucial elements of recovery when thinking about how to absorb all of the gains you’ve earned, and waste none:
Go to sleep: Put the phone down, stop scouring the insta-web, and go to bed. Getting sufficient sleep is not only imperative to being well rested, alert, and able to crush a workout tomorrow, but it’s also equally as important for recovery. When you go to sleep, your body can get to work with recovering the damage done to your massive muscles. 7 days a week of unrested, half-ass workouts wont bring you nearly as much benefit as 5 days of well rested, focused, strong, fueled workouts. More isn’t always better, unless we’re talking about sleep. When in doubt, catch more Zzz’s.
Eat real food: Forget about “gluten free,” “non-GMO,” “pro-ACAI” (I might have made that up), or any of the other marketing ploys the food industry puts out there to charge consumers more money for eating the way we were designed to eat as living, breathing, organisms. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and forget the middle aisles exist. Put the sugar free/dairy free ice cream back in the freezer and eat some berries. Eat meat, vegetables, nuts, fruit, and if it has more than 5 ingredients, it’s probably too processed to provide anything beneficial for your body. Skip it.
Hydrate: 2 H’s and 1 O, to be specific. Your body needs water to repair damaged tissue, and even for the most basic cellular functions. Your muscles need water to recover and to photosynthesize (you know, because they’re plants and that’s how plants grow, or something ;)). If you have a hard time getting enough water in, set an alarm for 3-5 times a day, fill up a glass of agua, and slam it. Easy peasy.
Mobility: Mo’ ‘bility. More ability. Get it?? When your muscles are worked, they are damaged, and as they recover, they tighten. Think of your muscles like a rubberband; the more you stretch it, the more tense it becomes, the less you can maneuver it, and once it gets to a place where it cannot stretch anymore, it inevitably snaps. If you’re not mobilizing your muscles as they grow by stretching, doing myofascial release (google it, it’s basically what you do with a lacrosse ball), and learning to move through maximum ranges of motion, you are doing yourself a huge disservice and will soon find yourself with a long list of “problem areas.”
Maintenance: It’s like getting “the works” at the car wash. Does it seem like more of a luxury? Maybe. But make no mistake, you will never regret taking better care of your body. The more you beat your body up, the more you should take care of it and treat it to some maintenance practices like massages, acupuncture, chiropractic work, yoga, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to drop another $200 a month on extras, but a massage or alignment from a chiropractor once or twice every couple of weeks (or even months) will keep your muscles and bones in optimal placement and working order. If you find yourself experiencing new “tweaks” to your shoulders/hips/back, you could likely benefit from some muscular and spinal adjusting. If you’re unsure of where to go, just ask a coach or another member.
Last, but not least, be sure to take rest days, at least once a week. Some rest days can be “active recovery “ (walking, hiking, biking, swimming, or something else outside of the gym), while others should be strictly rest with very little physical activity. Sometimes, you’ve got to park that beautiful beast in the garage and let’er rest. 😉