In my preceding article I discussed how taking more than just your training seriously could have major benefits to your long term gains. By compounding the interest of proper recovery and minimization of negative habits, your lifts could significantly improve, more so than by just hard training alone. A lifestyle based on success is one that elite athletes around the globe practice and we should examine what they do (and don’t do) to be the best in their game.
As with all aspects of life, there are positive and negative actions. There are few negative habits that everyone “knows” about but never the less should be reviewed to remind us how detrimental they can be.
- Drinking alcohol. This powerful diuretic can slow muscle recovery. The athlete should keep drinking to a minimum. Never, ever get drunk, as it can take days to fully rehydrate.
- Lack of sleep. People love to say they require less sleep than the recommended seven or eight hours. You are wrong and should go to bed. Younger athletes would do better with even more sleep each night.
- Crummy nutrition. This can run the gamut from not eating enough to actually eating too much. There are pros that can help you with this, as well as a multitude of phone apps. If you struggle here, it is more likely a lack of discipline and psychology. The science is everywhere, and most of it is free.
- Can’t follow directions. You can’t stick to the reps on your program, do a 4 hour climb of a mountain on your rest day, or skip your conditioning. While this may be cool for recreational athletes, don’t expect to take home the gold this way.
By eliminating the negative and training hard, getting your gram of protein per pound of body weight and sleeping eight hours at night you are off to the right start. These are the standards nearly everyone follows and assumes they are covering their bases. Frankly that’s good for the beginner, but what else can the intermediate or advanced athlete do for recovery? Plenty!
Strongman training is some of the most demanding on the planet, and there are a multitude of options for recovering faster allowing you to increase training volume, intensity, and frequency.
Everyone loves a good massage. It relieves stress, improves circulation, breaks up scar tissue and decreases muscle soreness. And that’s just scratching the surface. One of the biggest things you can do is get massage done regularly, as often as you can afford it. Since it can be an expensive investment, I have traded massage therapists for training. If you can’t do that, go as often as you can afford. I would recommend at least once per month.
If you can’t afford a professional, a significant other can help or trade with a training partner. If none of that is available, take a look at our list of the best foam rollers and work on your tight muscles yourself.
While it may not be the most comfortable post session practice, athletes seem to love dunking themselves in ice baths. Even super cold cryotherapy tubes are being marketed to speed recovery. A much simpler and cost effective solution are hot and cold showers popularized by the East Germans for their Olympic athletes. By jumping in the shower post session and running hot water for one minute and cold water for 30 seconds, you can effectively help move the lactate from your muscles. There is a lack of evidence showing ice baths do this more effectively and they are much more inconvenient. Consistency with these are the key and from my personal experience are difficult to beat.
Visualization and Goal Setting
See my previous article on this topic for a further review, but for a basic recap I would immediately start doing the following today:
- Write down short term, intermediate and long range goals and review them daily.
- Keep them to yourself and only share them with your coaches. Broadcasting them on the internet and to friends actually works against you.
- Before your training sessions, close your eyes for a few minutes and play out the key moves for the day in your head. See yourself doing them correctly and better than ever before.
Cool Down and Mediation
Time is your most precious resource, and you only get so much of it to spend. Begin recovering as soon as you put the bar down for the day by letting your body destress. Drink your recovery shake and find a place in the gym where you can sit (or go to your car but don’t turn it on) and relax. Make a few mental notes about what you did well and what you could have done better.
Close your eyes and let your body get back to normal. You can just sit and relax or start your favorite form of meditation. Personally, I recommend the Wim Hof method. Athletes like Laird Hamilton are big believers in the system and the breathing techniques are easy to learn. The National Academy for Sciences found: “Healthy volunteers exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine (adrenaline), which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin,”.
Just make sure you are fully awake and ready to drive when you are finished with any form of relaxation or mediation. The last thing you want is to be tired from training and groggy when driving.
Do you really need an excuse to nap? I hope not. I would consider this a must for athletes who run multiple sessions per day. My programming is deeply rooted in the Bulgarian system of frequent sessions and napping was essential to their success. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day can have an immediate effect on your progress. Besides, it will improve your entire life, so why not?
Understanding that a comprehensive approach is mandatory for success is paramount for the best athletes in any sport. By making smart recovery choices you begin to travel down the road to becoming the champion you have always wanted to be. Do not let all the effort you put into lifting become a waste of time by not fully recovering from those sessions!
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image: Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation