We work hard, and because of the intensity of our sessions, recovery between them is of the utmost importance. It is the only way to promote tissue healing, prevent injury, and receive the greatest adaptations from your hard work. Everyone has experienced muscle tenderness and stiffness, commonly called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is indicative of micro-tears to the muscle fiber. It is perfectly acceptable to workout while you are “sore,” especially if you are following our workout program—the WODs are designed to be completed sequentially. However, it is also important to give your body the best opportunity for recovery every day, and to take a complete rest day after every three to four (consecutive) days of training. It is during your rest periods that your body has the opportunity to repair the micro-tears in muscular and connective tissue. It is also imperative to allow your neuro-endocrine system—your nerves and hormones—an opportunity to recover from the stress of training. By recovering faster and more completely, you will be able to train harder, and ultimately improve your level of fitness, thereby improving your results. So, how do you provide your body with the optimal environment for healing?
1) Sleep. While you are resting, your body has the opportunity to repair itself. Poor sleep quality is almost as bad as poor sleep quantity, so make sure you are relaxed before bed. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night in a cool, pitch-black room. Do not eat before going to bed, as digestion will affect sleep quality.
2) Nutrition. Sub par nutritional habits, especially those involving grain-based carbohydrates, processed foods, and dairy, will increase inflammation in the body and impede healing. Proper nutrition in Paleo parameters will significantly improve recovery time. Recommendations: the more vegetables, the more nutrients, the more raw ingredients your body has to rebuild itself. Good fats provide fuel for subsequent efforts. Finally, your body also requires sufficient amounts of protein. Protein sources should be animal-based, as only these contain the full complement of amino acids.
3) Take care of your muscle tissue in between sessions. If you are experiencing DOMS a day or two after a tough workout, ice is a fantastic analgesic because it slows the rate that sensory nerves fire pain signals, as well as decreases nerve conduction speed. It will also decrease tissue inflammation and therefore speed tissue healing. Recommendation: 10 minutes of ice massage with an ice cup on the sore area (an ice cup is a Dixie cup filled with water, then frozen). By slowing pain reception to the brain, ice will also reduce muscle spasm. It is also important to stretch and massage muscle tissue to break up any adhesions (“knots”) that could cause altered muscular patterns, as well as injury, in the long-run. Stretching and massage techniques, including foam rolling, will be covered in part two of this series.
4) De-stress. Stress levels alter hormone concentrations in the body, which impede healing. Find your method of relaxation—meditation, bubble baths, Kenny G., etc. Take measures to reduce stress at the office, and make your home your haven.
Rest today—so you can work hard tomorrow!
–Melody and John