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Monday
Aug182014

6 Ways You Impair Your Fitness Recovery

Ask people what they associate with fitness, and you’ll hear hard work, sweat, exertion and fatigue. While all of the above are true, we often don’t talk enough about fatigue - or, seen another way, the body’s post-workout recovery process. However, what we do in that recovery window, so to speak, has much more influence over our fitness gains than we’d imagine. In addition to understanding where our workouts hit the law of diminishing returns, how we allow for and even support our exercise recovery can make a sizable difference in our fitness and performance progress. For all the time and effort you put in at the gym, it’s critical to avoid the following 6 mistakes that hinder your body’s post-workout recovery.

Problem: Not Getting Enough Sleep

It’s amazing the ways we underestimate the negative effects of inadequate sleep. Sure, we’re tired, edgy, and slow on the uptake. However, we’re also impairing our bodies’ ability to physically recover from the healthy stress our workouts impose on them. Sleep might be the easiest and one of the most effective ways we can support our bodies’ recovery process. Given that most people operate at a continual sleep deficit, it’s clear that insufficient sleep commonly operates against our fitness progress.  

Solution: To get the most out of sleep, try to get eight hours a night, and make sure you have consistent sleep/wake times. In addition to the raw number of hours, our actual sleep schedule influences how well rested we’ll be the next day. Try to get to bed early (ideally no later than 10:30 p.m.), since physical recovery is maximized during the first half of the night. If you currently get significantly less than eight hours of sleep, try to add fifteen minutes each night until you work up to your eight hour goal.

Problem: Eating a Diet With Lots of Inflammatory Foods

A diet of inflammation-promoting foods can cause connective tissue to become much more rigid and more prone to injury. Culprits can include sugar and flour, processed vegetable oils, dairy and corn. 

Solution: Try to avoid processed food as much as you can, and eat a natural, whole foods diet as much as possible. A good rule of thumb: if the food wasn’t available 1,000 years ago, it probably isn’t the best choice. For many people reading this article, an Alletess Food Sensitivity Test may be a good investment to see what foods might be spurring inflammatory responses and causing or contributing to a variety of health issues.

Problem: Dehydration  

Most people do not drink enough water. In addition, many of us usually consume caffeinated beverages that can further exacerbate dehydration. Being dehydrated by a mere 1.5% can cause a decrease of up to 10% in strength. Likewise, lack of water can cause joints to be less lubricated and muscle tightness to increase.  

Solution: A good guideline is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day (So, if you weigh 150 lbs, this would be a minimum of 75 ounces each day). It’s best to limit caffeine overall, and add additional water to compensate for caffeinated beverages.

Problem: Not Taking Two Important Supplements

In addition to a good core multivitamin, I always recommend omega-3 (fish oil) and vitamin D3. The EPA in omega-3 lowers inflammation in the body and helps lubricate the joints. Likewise, research suggests that higher range vitamin D levels may support bone and joint improvements.

Solution: Try to take 2-4 grams of combined EPA and DHA/day from a high quality omega-3 supplement. For vitamin D, have your levels tested at least twice a year (or seasonally if you live in the northern half of the U.S.) and dose your supplement accordingly to maintain levels above 50 ng/ml.

Problem: Lack of Parasympathetic Recovery

The sympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the body’s “fight or flight” system. By the same token, we can consider the parasympathetic nervous system the “rest and digest” part. The majority of people today spend much of their waking hours in a sympathetic state, and the associated stress takes a toll on the body, including slowing recovery.

Solution: Take a few minutes to meditate or practice deep breathing each day to induce a parasympathetic state, which will help the body and mind recover as well as improve sleep and digestion. You don’t need to be a regular meditator or have any special knowledge of meditation. A simple drill you can do is to sit tall on a chair with your back straight. From there, place your hands on your knees, close your eyes and breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale with the total breath time lasting 5-10 seconds. Start with one minute, and work up to five minutes. Doing this simple deep breathing drill once or twice a day when you’re stressed or tired can work wonders for physical and mental energy as well as fitness recovery.

Problem: Not Making Recovery Techniques a Habit

So many people feel they struggle to fit in a basic workout that adding a recovery component might seem like one more time commitment. However, when we understand its importance to our fitness and performance gains, it can be an easier routine to accept.

Solution: Although 15-20 minutes a day is a good measure, do whatever you can. Start with five minutes a day. It can be a simple meditation technique like the one above, or it can be some of the foam rolling, flexibility exercises, or other techniques I describe in this recovery article. The key is to start small with what works for you for five minutes/day. Once five minutes becomes a habit, go to ten minutes and eventually work your way up to 15-20 minutes/day.

How do you ensure adequate recovery for your fitness program? Share your questions and thoughts.

Written by Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

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