People LOVE working out in Charlotte. It’s f**king amazing. As a fitness professional, there’s nothing I love more than inspiring people to get off their asses and move. To sweat. To pick up something heavy and (safely) put it down. To integrate functional training into their everyday lives. Now here comes the “but…”
BUT…in line with this rise in fitness enthusiasm, there seems to be an inverse correlation with recovery. People are moving more, but recovering less. Yikes. When training regularly, recovery is just as impactful – if not more – on the progress you make towards your goals. Whether you’re trying lose body fat, gain lean muscle, operate at peak performance, or you’re simply interested in long term health and longevity, your recovery methods should be intentional. Honestly…a lot of what I’m about to say is likely not new information to you, but sometimes you just need a “gentle” reminder (or a kick in the ass if it’s coming from me…I’ve never been gentle) to get it together and start treating your body like you give a shit about it.
So, without further adieu (or additional bouts of potty mouth), here are my top 5 recovery tips to keep you feeling refreshed and strong as f**k (ok…just kidding about the potty mouth):
1. TAKE THE FOTHER MUCKING REST DAY!
Overtraining is a pervasive, yet largely acknowledged issue these days. Somehow, “effective training” has morphed into a “no days off” mentality (insert cry face emoji here). Contributing to this widespread habit, people are often applauded for overtraining (“You lifted in the morning AND went on a 5 mile run after work?? Good for you!”).
Are you training for an upcoming competition? Are you an elite or professional athlete training for game day? Trying to “make weight” for anything in particular? I’m guessing that’s a “no” for the majority of you. Which is stupendous! This means you don’t have to workout 3 times a day or 7 days a week!
Now, I’m sure plenty of you will argue that you don’t overtrain because you feel like you have to, you do it because you genuinely love your workouts. I can respect that. I’ve been there. I was a total victim of workout FOMO. I’d go six or seven days in a row of training at MAD because the workouts just looked too good to miss. I couldn’t discern between wanting to rest and needing to rest…so I trained, trained, and trained some more! On top of that, I would even sprinkle in a few yoga or cycle classes in the same day because I just HAD to see my other fitness friends. And then, one day while I was training at MAD for the 6th consecutive day – despite being borderline crippled from soreness from the previous 5 days that I just “couldn’t miss” – I crumbled on the floor. I struggled moving weight that would ordinarily feel easy. I was slow. I felt sick. I felt puffy. For lack of better words: I felt like absolute dog shit. Fortunately, I have bosses that actually give a crap about me, so they sat me down and basically told me enough is enough and more or less demanded that I take a damn rest day. Since then, I now ALWAYS take at least two rest days per week, and I’ve never felt better.
Consider your rest days as a PART of your training regimen. If you spend the majority of your week strength training in particular, keep in mind that your body and muscles rebuild and grow in the recovery phase. If you never allow you muscles to rest and repair, your results will drastically suffer. So whether or not you want to rest…please…just take the fother mucking rest day.
2. Eat enough.
Ooh goody!! Onto my favorite topic…FOOD! Under-eating to support an active AF lifestyle is also omnipresent in this health and fitness-focused Charlotte market. I can’t tell you how many of my nutrition clients come to me with a history of chronic under-eating. Workout more, eat less. That’s the shitty mentality that’s been drilled into us for the last however many years. It makes me heart and my tummy sad. Food is beautiful. Food fuels our movement. It feeds our souls. It should bring us JOY, not guilt! Furthermore, if you’re working out regularly, you NEED the sustenance to support your training load. And you don’t need to be a high performing athlete to reap the benefits of eating enough.
I could talk about this topic at novel length, so for the sake of brevity and relevance (since we ARE just talking about recovery here) I’ll leave it at this:
- Consume a steady stream of protein throughout your entire day to preserve and build muscle mass.
- Pack more carbohydrates into your post workout meal to replenish the glycogen you depleted while training.
- Eat allllll the micronutrients! Think vitamin and mineral-rich foods, fruits, and vegetables. When in doubt, double down in the produce section and eat the rainbow. Micros play a key role in keeping inflammation at bay, supporting a well-oiled metabolism, and optimizing daily function. Bonus: if you’re into macro tracking, micronutrients usually come in the form of foods that carry lower macro and calorie counts, so you can enjoy big ass servings without blowing through your macro targets
If you’re interested in learning more about post-workout nutrition basics, check out this article!
3. Prioritize sleep.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. Excuse me – just need to take a second to roll my eyes.
Ok, I’m back! In terms of recovery, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to get a good night’s sleep. 7-8 hours is ideal. Time is precious…I get it. And it doesn’t help that time so easily gets away from us at night. You get home, eat dinner, hang with your family or friends, play with your pets, have a burning desire to catch up on Bravo’s latest trashy Real Housewives episode…the list goes on. Suddenly it’s 11pm and you have 6am workout scheduled the next day. Odds are, you’re still dragging your ass out of bed even though you’re easily getting <7 hours of sleep. Partly because you don’t want to get hit with that no show charge or lose your class credit, and partly because you’ve been conditioned to believe that foregoing that extra hour (or two) or sleep in favor of getting in a workout is the healthiest option for you…when really, it’s not.
I’ll circle back to that “no days off” mentality. Cut that shit out! If you’re regularly under-sleeping, take a close look at your evening routine and see where you can make subtle changes. Maybe you:
- Minimize your “screen time” and avoid getting sucked into that late night Instagram hole.
- Find a 30 minute show and save the hour long series for a Sunday of recovery and sitting on your bum (hold the workout FOMO).
- Try to wean yourself off of your work email at night and trust that it can wait until the morning (because in most cases…it can).
- Pick one day per week to food prep so that you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of time cooking dinner.
- Set a goal of sending yourself to your bedroom 30 minutes earlier than usual next week. And then the week after that you add another 30 minutes to that goal.
Long story short: get those zzz’s! I promise, you’ll feel a trillion times better once you do. Oftentimes, all it takes is a few solid, consecutive days of excellent sleep for that well-restedness to permeate into all other aspects of your recovery: you’ll perform better; your hormones will level out and, in turn, favorably affect your metabolism, appetite, and dietary choices; productivity and mental clarity will heighten (so maybe you’re more efficient at work and can nix the need to open your laptop back up at home); and so on.
4. Supplement with a high quality fish
Unlike the supplemental dietary fads that come and go, human necessity for high quality omega-3 consumption is essential…and will always be essential. Furthermore, while you can absorb omega-3s from eating real food, most people under-consume natural sources of it – especially for those who don’t eat much wild-caught seafood (factory-farmed seafood typically carries an adverse amount of omega-6 fatty acids). Fish oil benefits run the gamut, but from a recovery-specific standpoint, look for one with a favorable EPA and DHA profile (the two essential Omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies do not naturally produce). Intense exercise and weight training increase inflammation and muscle oxidation. EPA and DHA reduce this response, thus reducing soreness and priming your body for its next bout of exercise-induced stress. EPA and DHA supplementation also aids in muscle protein development and limits muscle protein degeneration. Translation: less muscle breakdown and more muscle growth. Jackpot!
In my opinion, Stronger Faster Healthier offers far and away the cleanest and most concentrated source of pharmaceutical grade liquid fish oil on the market. Just one teaspoon a day delivers a solid 3,900mg of Omega-3s (with an optimal EPA and DHA ratio).
I won’t insult your intelligence by presenting adequate H2O consumption as a novel recovery tactic. We all know that drinking water is important to our health. So, simply put, just be more conscientious of your intake! If you exercise regularly, you’re going to benefit from drinking more water than the everyday, sedentary individual. Apart from proper hydration making every function of the human body more efficient, drinking water during and after your workout helps rid your body of waste products and prevents dehydration…since sweating is – quite literally – a form of dehydration. You’re much more likely to sustain injury, painful cramps, and spasms when your muscles are dehydrated.
When it comes to water intake goals, it’s going to vary based on your gender, size, activity level, and more. A good place to start would be to aim to take down your body weight in fluid ounces of water. This may be a substantial amount of water compared to what your current takedown looks like, but there are a few strategies you can put into play to help achieve this goal:
- Get a water bottle you like. If I’m relying solely on bottled water, or using a shitty nalgene I don’t like, I’m harder pressed to meet my daily goal. I bought myself a 40oz Hydro Flask with a sippy spout (because I’m a child), and I drink WAY more water simply because I like the bottle.
- Infuse your water. Pinkies up, bitches. Make your H2O fancy shmancy and throw some sliced cucumber, citrus wedges, or fresh berries into your water bottle for some natural infusion!
- Morning chug. Fill your water bottle up before you go to bed and keep it on your bedside table. Whatever you don’t drink that night (which is likely going to be most of it because no one enjoys waking up to pee on the reg), finish it in the morning when you wake up – BEFORE you enjoy your coffee and breakfast. Apart from simply making strides to your generous, daily water goal, hydrating before eating or drinking anything else primes your metabolism and digestion, helps flush toxins and wakes your brain up.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is read more. So I’ll shut my pie hole now and leave it at this: take care of your body, and it will take care of you.