Listen to any sports channel for long enough and you’ll learn just about everything under the sun about a given player or team. Eventually that channel will run a story about a star athlete’s secret to recovery. And for good reason.
It’s a crucial aspect of every professional athletes’ life—without it, they’d never survive. The demands put on a professional athlete are extreme. It’s important for them to have a recovery system in place. Some athletes believe in its importance so much that they go to great lengths to guarantee their performance is the best it can be.
Take former Steelers linebacker James Harrison for example. Back in 2017 Harrison stated in an interview that he spent upwards of $350,000 a year toward recovery efforts.
The $350,000 is divided between the various recovery methods below
While Mr. Harrison is a unique example, he’s not the only athlete trying new and unique things. Tom Brady is another big name that’s been in the news for trying novel recovery techniques.
If players are taking their recovery that seriously, it must be important.
Why should you recover?
Exercise puts a lot of stress on your body. When you experience stress, you need an opportunity to recover. More stress—more recovery. Sometimes the stress isn’t significant, and won’t you need much recovery – like with low intensity workouts. On the other hand, after intense workouts your body is slightly damaged and exhausted from the exercise, and needs more time to recover.
The amount of recovery you need is determined by a host of variables. As mentioned, the intensity of exercise, as well as your training status, level of fatigue, and your personal ability to cope with the various stressors all contribute to your recovery needs.
Without proper recovery these stress contributors accumulate and cause negative things, like overtraining. Overtraining can result in a number of serious conditions. By engaging in a combination of well-planned recovery methods you can easily avoid any overtraining.
How should you recover?
The method or methods you use to recovery will depend on the type of activity you did and the amount of time until your active again. According to the Gatorade institute of Sports Science, some of the most popular recovery methods are hydrotherapy, stretching, sleep, compression garments, nutrition and active recovery.
The GISS recommends that you take some time and consider the following before trying any recovery strategies—how long do you have until your next training session? Is there evidence that what you’re planning to do will actually work?
Not all recovery methods work for all situations. It’s important to understand when and where to use different recovery options.
Since the research on recovery methods is relatively new and still being developed, its difficult to give definitive answers on what recovery methods are best. Use the current available recommendations as guidelines. As an athlete you should experiment with different recovery approaches and strategies to see what works best for you.
Out of all the current training strategies available – sleep and nutrition should be given priority. Doing these two things well is a necessary part of any effective recovery strategy.
What should you do next?
First—create a sleep schedule you can stick to that gives you at least 7 hours of rest. If you can get more than that—get more. An extra hour or two won’t hurt.
As your sleep habit becomes more regular, start trying to adjust some nutritional habits. Make sure you’re eating enough and try to make sure it’s not junk. Eat whole foods—stuff you can grow, pick, or raise.
Master these two things and your recovery efforts will be in great shape. Next week we’ll go into further detail on sleep and nutrition, and cover other popular recovery options.