In my first few days aboard the USS George Washington in my new Naval Aviation unit, a senior Naval Flight Officer sat me down and told me some version of the following: “You are going to be working long hours out here on this [aircraft] carrier. If you don’t find the time to take care of yourself nobody else will.”
Though he was talking about life in a Navy jet squadron, I’ve found his point valid across all aspects of life. It’s true; nobody is going to look out for us if we don’t do it for ourselves.
As I’ve gotten older (and more dinged up, and….wiser?), I’ve thought a lot harder about how that concept applies to how I should be managing my body. I need to be the one ensuring that I am strong, fast, durable, and ready for what life may throw at me over time. The keywords being durable and ready.
Anyone who has pushed their body up to and beyond its limit will tell you that sometimes taking the ‘strong and fast’ aspects of fitness too far can diminish the ‘durable and ready’ piece.
We are not superheroes and, sorry to say, neither are you. We’re all limited to some degree by the bodies we walk around in. Making recovery an important aspect of your fitness routine will ensure that you are mobile, flexible, and can exert strength through ranges of motion. In short, you will be strong, durable, and ready for anything.
Great. Now what? Funny you should ask.
Below I’ve broken out the 90%+ solution to building an effective recovery protocol into your routine. If you mix these techniques and tactics into your fitness routine – you’re going to have a better time. Trust.
As a bonus, you might even find yourself happier, more productive, and resistant to depression. But that’s a conversation for another time!
A few ideas that will get you started:
Stretch & Foam Roll
Most of us are on busy schedules, squeezing in a workout in between meetings, and wanting to immediately move on with our days after we’re done. However, stretching even for just 10 minutes post-workout gives our bodies time to cool down, to rehabilitate muscle fibers, and to improve blood circulation - contributing mightily to muscle recovery.
Additionally, targeted techniques with a foam roller or handheld massager are also great for adding pressure to certain muscles to reduce muscle soreness in specific areas.
Stretching and foam rolling can be incorporated pre-workout, post-workout, and on non-workout days. The foam roller is your friend!
Additionally, consider adding a topical pain/inflammation gel into your recovery toolkit. To be clear, inflammation is a normal and desirable part of the healing process from both injury and the microtrauma induced by intense exercise. With that said, the line between advantageous and deleterious inflammation is a fine one.
When the pain/inflammation signals no longer feel like they’re serving me I’ll work in a topical for a few days at a time. At VRB, we developed an extremely effective, FDA-approved topical, Recover, that is incredibly effective at fighting pain and inflammation.
Hydrate and Eat a Sensible Diet
Drink more water. Water not only flushes toxins out of the body, transports nutrients into the cells, and helps regulate body temperature and pH balance, but it also aids in muscle soreness and tension. It’ll effectively replenish the liquids, electrolytes, and sodium lost during exercise.
Hand in hand with hydration is a balanced diet. Eating any time from immediately after to three hours post-activity is essential to gaining back lost nutrients. Combining carbs with protein after a workout has been shown to help replenish glycogen (what your body uses for energy) and repair muscle tissue.
No need to count all the macros of your meals if that’s not your thing; simply stay away from lots of overly processed foods and focus on vegetables, good fats, lean meats, and some fruit. Simple is good.
I recommend looking into the Paleo, Keto, and Whole30 diets, but, more than anything, just pick a mode of eating that's consistent with your lifestyle that you'll be able to stick to.
If you have never stretched with a band – you’re welcome. Most gyms should have a set of elastic bands of differing resistance. There are many, many variations of banded stretching, but this list covers some of our favorites. Hold each stretch for 60-90 seconds. Explore the space from there:
This category is the catch-all for tactics that will help you to show up at the gym, track, office, or field feeling like your best self. Too much time spent on any one aspect of life will throw the other areas into disarray. On your rest and recovery days, consider working on some of the following tactics. You’ll feel better and be better.
While athletic or power yoga may not be the right move on a recovery day, a more restorative or gentle yoga class might be the push you need to lengthen the muscle tissues and improve mobility and range of motion.
Yoga teaches body awareness and is also wonderful for unwinding mentally after tough days in the office. Remember that recovery not only applies to the physical body but also the mind; tough workouts can be mentally taxing, and moments of mindfulness are powerful.
Get Quality Sleep
Our bodies heal and restore when we sleep by maintaining the right body temperature, blood pressure, and hormonal balance. Even one night of sleep deprivation can hurt performance. While everyone needs a different amount of sleep, the average is anywhere between seven and nine hours.
However, hitting 8 hours of sleep doesn’t necessarily mean your body is getting the quality sleep it needs. Try to find a healthy bedtime routine that works for you. Ours? We set our phones and other electronics down at least an hour before bed, take the VRB Rest natural sleep aid, do a 10-20-minute meditation, and read until we are out.
Appreciate the work your body puts in and make the effort to make recovery part of your routine. A rest day is recommended about once or twice every week depending on your level of exertion. With that said, recovery techniques and tools should be part of your daily routine.
Listen to your body. If you had a difficult workout yesterday and you want to rest, we’re not saying you have to lay on the couch the entire day (although sometimes that’s the right answer). But if your body is calling for some movement, go on an easy hike or call up a friend to take a hot yoga class. You don’t need to be performing at 200% every single day; your body and mind need rest and recovery to maximize your performance when you need it.