Two Key Components of Recovery That Are Often Forgotten
Posted on 13th May 2021
Most people understand the importance of recovery after training but fail to implement it within their routine.
Various clients I’ve trained - or even friends, colleagues or strangers at the gym - increase their training when chasing fitness gains and results. Whether that’s muscle gain, fat loss, flexibility, or something else, most people jump to increasing their time training and neglect to increase their recovery time to compensate.
When we train, we are breaking down our muscle fibres causing sustained damage. The body will then repair these damaged fibres which increases the mass and size of the muscles. This is why recovery is important; it’s where we make our gains and achieve our fitness goals.
Today we will discuss two fundamental ways to increase recovery and achieve those important goals!
Sleep is arguably the best way of allowing the body time to recover, conserve energy, and repair the muscle fibres broken down through the various workouts or stresses from day-to-day life that you put it through. During childhood adolescence and our teenage years, when we sleep, our body produces growth hormones. That’s why teenagers like to sleep a lot – and we should let them. When we’re older it helps us repair the damage done to our body. It’s essential for athletic recovery.
The quality of sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep you get. On average you should be aiming to achieve 8 hours per night. That means 8 hours of sleep, not getting into bed and scrolling on your phone for an hour then eventually falling asleep, making it less than 7 hours! But we all have different and busy lives, and some of us might struggle with getting enough sleep, so let’s talk about some ways to maximise our sleep quality.
Reduce blue light exposure in the evening – To explain this simply, this is to do with our body’s in-built clock. Naturally, we understand when it is daytime and to get out and about with our jobs and when its night and time to sleep. Blue light has the effect on your brain to make it think it’s still daytime. Blue light is common in electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, and TVs. You can download apps that reduce blue light or even get specialist glasses that block blue light. Removing blue light from your evenings, especially for an hour or two before bed, is one way of super charging your sleep.
Try and set regular sleep and wake times – Our body loves regular patterns. Studies show that if you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time, it can improve the quality of your sleep. If you do this for a few weeks, you might not even need an alarm to wake you up.
Create a sleep environment – This is one of the harder ones but can yield big results. Where we sleep should be made for sleeping, that’s it. There should be no distractions around to interrupt your night’s sleep. This means, move that TV out of your bedroom (remember no blue light), minimise external noise as much as possible, try and get rid of artificial lights, and try and regulate the temperature if you can. Make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot. Your bedroom should be a quiet, relaxing, and enjoyable place to be.
Contrast water therapy
Also known as Hot/Cold Immersion therapy, contrast water therapy is when you place your full body, arm, leg, hands or feet) into warm water for a couple of minutes, followed by immediate placement into cold water.
This increases the blood circulation around the affected areas. It can be used to directly target injuries and help with pain relief or even just full body muscle recovery for general post training recovery or fatigue. It will help you quickly and safely restore normal mobility and function after injury or surgery.
You could also immerse yourself into cold water by itself, which is another great way to recover. It works by shocking your body by making it work hard to regulate your temperature in the cold water which you immerse yourself into. Therefore, this leads to your body working extra hard to adjust, which leads to increasing your immune system, increased white blood cell count, releasing endorphins, helping you lose weight, and reducing internal inflammation in the body.
Increase in White Blood Cells: When increasing blood flow to the area affected, the blood vessels become wider (dilate). This helps the white blood cells, proteins, and other substances reach the cells faster. This increase in heat will increase the inflammation to the affected area because the leakiness causes water to collect in the surrounding tissue which causes swelling. But this is a good response for the body trying to repair itself.
Release of Endorphins: When we’re exposed to cold water this stimulates the production of noradrenaline and beta-endorphins, all while sending electrical impulses from our nerve endings to our brain. These chemical reactions could have an anti-depressive effect on us. This all jolts your system to increase alertness, clarity, and energy levels. Endorphins, which are sometimes called happiness hormones, are released. This effect leads to feelings of well-being and optimism.
Reduces Inflammation: The hot water causes vasodilation of the blood flow in the body, followed by the cold water which causes vasoconstriction, increasing local blood circulation. This helps to reduce the inflammation within the affected areas and speeds up the healing process.
If you need more help with planning your training recovery or would like more information on the topics discussed here, please get in touch and we’d be delighted to help you.
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