How to optimise recovery for maximal health and fitness results!
Whenever you watch a professional bodybuilder or athlete train, their training montage seems like they spend hours at the gym, twice a day and don’t take any rest days. I’m here to tell you that training hard is only one part of the equation; a small amount. The other components include nutrition and recovery. In today’s article, we will be diving into recovery; frequency of training, rest days and sleep. Let’s get to it!
Frequency of training
Training frequency is most likely going to be the most significant variable in people’s training. There are many programs out there, and as I’ve said before, any program works as long as you attack it with 100% effort and intensity. Rather than go through each training methods, I’ll share with you guys guidelines on the frequency of training.
- Guideline number 1: The more frequent you train, the less intense the training program should be. For example, lifting heavy weights every day will lead to sub-par results and increase the likelihood of getting injured. In this context, intensity is how heavy you lift. You want a program that is created in a way that allows you to lift heavy while managing your intensity level.
- Guideline number 2: You want to perform a program that changes the exercise every 4-6 weeks. For example, if all I do is bench press with a straight bar, this can cause injury to my wrist, elbows, or shoulders due to the movement pattern being overused. To prevent overuse injury, you want a program that takes “overused” into account and programs in joint-friendly exercise such as dumbbell bench press instead of a straight bar bench press all the time. (Note: I didn’t say change the program every time you train. Sure, your body does need different stimulus, but going from a straight bar bench to a dumbbell press is enough of a change for your body to continue growing.
- Guideline number 3: Be wary of programs that overemphasise cardio! Let me begin by saying there is nothing wrong with cardio. It’s just, from my experience when someone wants to lose body fat, they overdo the cardio. Long term, the best results is one that allows you to grow muscles. Cardio is useful to improve your lung capacity and endurance. Lifting weights and following a program that emphasises progressive overload is the best way to see long-lasting results.
From my experience, there are two common ways people to rest days. First is that they don’t do anything at all. Besides moving from point A to point B, they don’t do anything. The second reaction is to perform things, not in their program. This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it can interfere with the main program. For example, you do a cycle class a day before leg day.
My optimal rest day recommendation includes performing some sort of walk. Whether it be one long walk or a couple of short walks throughout the day, keeping your body moving is an excellent way to promote blood flow to your body which in turn will help speed up recovery.
A little rant- Rest days are crucial. What most people don’t know is that muscles grow and repair during rest days or when you aren’t using them heavily. A typical general population mistake I see is people not taking any rest days. Like person A I mentioned earlier, even when their program says rest day, they still do other things, not in their program.
I think this comes down to a state of mind. People think they aren’t going to get their results if they don’t work hard all day, every day. Now, like what most people eventually realise is that their needs to be a balance between working hard and resting hard.
We’ve saved the best for last- sleep! In our consumer world, people are bombarded with companies selling supplements and the newest things to help grow muscles and whatnot. The reality is, you can take the best, most expensive supplement you can find and religiously take it, but if your sleep is shit, then the supplement won’t do anything for you. As the word says, they are a supplement. They aren’t supposed to replace a good night sleep.
Sleep quality and sleep length are what you want to achieve. Below are some examples of how you can optimise your sleep.
- Sleep and wake up the same time every day, even if it’s the weekend. When I started implementing this, it became a game-changer. The weekend part is hard sometimes. I give myself a 30-60-minute leeway at night (I usually sleep between 10:30 pm-11 pm) and around 15-30 minutes leeway in the morning (I wake up between 6 am- 6:30 am). Similar to any habit, consistent sleep and wake up time trains your body to know when to sleep and when to wake up.
- Ensure the room is dark and on the lower end temperature-wise.
- Avoid ‘blue lights’ 30-60 minutes before bed. I admit I struggle with this myself. A way around this is to put your device brightness to the lowest, but most of the time, even this is too bright. Another way around this is through blue light blocker glasses. Blue light stimulates our minds. When we sleep, we want our minds to be relaxed, not stimulated.
- If you find you have a lot on your mind, try a brain dump. Essentially this is when you get a piece of paper and a pen, write down everything on your mind. Doing this allows you to stop thinking about it and helps you sleep. Performing a brain dump was also a game-changer for me. I often don’t need to do this now, but when I can’t sleep, this is my go-to method to help me sleep.
There you have it! Things you need to focus on to maximise your recovery and your results! Training frequency, rest-days and sleep! Keep training hard till next time