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Improve Your Recovery to Get Stronger

Growth happens when you rest, not when you are training. If you just train constantly with little rest you will slow down, weaken and eventually get injured. Rest is the key.

Many athletes (like me!) spend a ton of money on gadgets like heart rate monitors, power meters, GPS devices and fancy training programs, but in the end you will improve just as much by optimizing your rest and recovery as you will from optimizing your workouts. Good coaches focus on this – which is partly why I think the best money you can spend to improve your performance in a sport is on a coach.

How to optimize your rest?

  • Get quality sleep in a dark room with no noise
  • Take ice baths after exercising
  • Alternate warm and cool showers in the morning to flush stale fluid from your muscles
  • Use a foam roller and do self-massage
  • Take in high quality nutrition immediately after finishing workouts (200-400 calories with a blend of sugar and protein – I like a dozen raw almonds and 4-5 dates with some water, or a smoothie made with Vega and fruit)
  • Give your nervous system a rest by not watching too much TV or using the computer a ton
  • Stay off your feet when don’t need to be on them
  • Cut back on stimulants like caffeine and sugar, especially in the evening
  • Learn yoga, develop a home practice and do it regularly (focus on your known tight/bound muscles)
  • SLEEP!!!! Go to bed early and wake up early!

How do you optimize your rest and recovery?

A view of Copper Lake, taken during a long day hike a few weeks ago near Snohomish, WA on the West Fork trail.

2 comments

  1. seandh says:

    On recovery in general, I’ve heard a theory that one of the biggest differentiators between professional athletes and top amateurs is not their training volume, but rather the ability of professionals to get more rest (sleep longer at night, naps, etc) than amateurs who also have “normal” day jobs. I’m sure this plays a significant role in their performance and recovery.

    On the sleep topic, this week I’ve put the early-to-bed practice to the test (along with some other ideas on “healthy” approaches to my schedule and living). My work right now often has me on telephone calls or working with colleagues until 8:00 or 8:30pm, effectively precluding my ability to exercise in the evenings. I’ve been very diligent about shutting down all “online” activity before sleep. Instead of dilly-dallying on Facebook or trying to best my Fruit Ninja high score, I do a short meditation and go to bed by 9 or 9:30pm. I sleep far better, and with 8 hours of sleep, it’s surprisingly easily get up a 5 or 5:30am, do my morning meditation and some breathing exercises (a form of meditation itself and great for freediving), and get in a solid workout (this week it’s been Crossfit workouts plus running or biking) before starting work. Then I’m able to fully dive into work, well-rested, energized from my workout, and without worrying about whether I’ll be able to exercise later in the day. I’m also more pleasant to be around.

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