health Dec 19, 2023

Most of the focus concerning training & progress is on the stress of the work performed. Exercises, sets and reps, and the ever-contentious intensity vs volume become the point of interest and argument. When in reality, the training is merely the stimulus from which your body makes the improved adaptations, but only when punctuated with proper recovery. You need the stress, but more so you need the recovery
& recovery — like anything — is a practice.

The majority of us just sorta wait for time to do its thing. Completing grueling training sessions and then waiting 24 hours to repeat the process. It is rarely progressive, hardly intuitive & at times counterproductive. There is something to be said about the amount of progress someone can make (& for how long) by merely improving their ability to recover.
Here is a starting list of practices and considerations that can potentially help convert your hard work into real performance. 

The first and foremost rule — in sequence not importance — is to change your state as soon as you can following training.
Training is ‘fight or flight’ stress.
Recovery is rest & digest. Your body must be in the proper state to start the reparation process. If the body is still in a heightened state due to intense training, it cannot properly facilitate healing and repair.
Trying to suck down nutrients or get restful sleep when the system is still revved up is not ideal.

Our breathing patterns dictate a large portion of down regulating after training to facilitate the body's natural desire to be at rest and repair.
Breath is such a fundamental component of being alive, yet we rarely give it any attention until we can no longer catch it.
But, when done intentionally, breath work is a priceless tool not only in regulating the mind & body for recovery, but also better processing and controlling overwhelming sensations and emotions. 

This is a vital practice especially if you have no other option than to train later in the evening, as training can adversely affect sleep.
[I trained in the evenings for many years. My sleep was trash. My lack of sufficient recovery turned training sessions into dumpster fires. I now try to avoid getting my central nervous system ramped up in the evenings at all costs.]

Your “cool-down” is a great place to start including breathing practice. It's often what I refer to while post workout stretching as: “putting the tasmanian devil back in its cage.”
Begin getting short choppy gasping for air under control by changing the ratio of CO2 & oxygen.
It's as simple as deep inhale, retention, then long controlled ventilation exhales while fighting the urge to panic back into choppy breaths.

What it opens up is an entire world of awareness. Because regulating your state via breath can be used throughout the day. Spending just a couple of minutes post-training to focus on it can drastically change the amount of recovery you can get & the practice can translate to heightened awareness to breathing patterns while training & doing life as well.
I have been focusing on breathing both pre & post training while submerged in cold water. The benefits have been profound to say the least.


then eat

People know about recovery meals. Hell, most of us might train just in order to eat a little more loosely. But one thing that gets overlooked is hydration and its role in the recovery process. The short answer is that you should replace water and minerals first and foremost before other calories because a properly hydrated system will process the food-fuel more efficiently.
This is something I neglected for many years. I thought that water was sufficient for (re)hydrating, but I never took into account how much electrolytes like: sodium, potassium & magnesium are lost during a hard sweat. & just how important magnesium is for promoting restful sleep.

A balanced electrolyte mix always gets put in very close to the completion of hard efforts. Right now I'm really digging the Redmonds re-lyte supplements for replenishing electrolytes and staying hydrated.

Eating then becomes fairly simple, you need carbs and protein, and to minimize fat for the time being so that digestion is quick. This is probably a good time to point out just how wrong the general public is with this protocol and how the marketing of protein shakes has negatively affected the perception of recovery. But to be fair, this rule does not matter much if what you are doing at the gym can’t be considered a true training signal (which is common). It is most likely why a lack of efficacy in the general population hasn’t been noticed, they don’t really work hard enough to need recovery. After training, carbs are a priority, protein is the passenger. Use a 2:1 carbs to protein ratio post workout, then the rest of daily eating focused on achieving your body weight in protein by the end of day, you'll likely have it right.



Aside from very specific elite sports where every ounce of energy and attention goes into training, you need to move — a lot. Walking is a mechanical flushing. It is an ingenious system whereby your “plumbing” is connected to your locomotion. When your average daily mileage goes up, so does your recovery because locomotion settles the psyche — affecting mood, hormones, soreness, and sleep positively. As the system relaxes and the lymphatic system is activated, not only the physical but the psychological parts of the system go into recovery. High daily averages are correlated to very healthy outcomes (duh)
Between 10-20k steps seems to be a generic goal that is easy to apply for the general population.

Everyone has excuses not to do it. We work desk jobs, we commute to work, etc, etc. It doesn’t really matter, if you want to make profound changes, walking is probably the most potent tool in which to do it. For the average person, walking is more effective than training at improving overall well-being, health, and longevity. So take the time that you might normally spend complaining about how it isn’t possible to walk more and… walk more. 



I’m not talking about what most people do at night, which is to lie down and become unconscious. I’m talking about the intentional practice of rest. This takes into consideration what you need to do—personally—in order to get restorative rest. For very active people, good old-fashioned sleep, in plentiful quantity and quality, provides enough restoration to help us tolerate the insults of daily life. But for more inactive individuals, moving MORE might actually be more restful than trying to sleep more (refer to the above paragraph for recommendations). I tend to believe that many individuals have trouble sleeping because their mind is overworked and overstimulated, but their body has not had enough activity to find comfort in stillness and eventual rest. That being said, (more) high-intensity exercise is usually NOT the answer. An analogy that might be helpful is imagining a 40-year-old car that is mostly stored and does not have regular maintenance. To “keep it going’ you just start it and do a burnout for 15 minutes a couple times a week. How long do you think it would take for shit to start to break down? 


Despite the advertising for new expensive mattresses, and technological innovations to biohack sleep, most people can improve their sleep by simply preparing for sleep and not letting their work day run into private time.
No matter what type of lifestyle you have, it is rare that we are taught to manipulate eating, breathing, and sleep to counterbalance periods of extreme stress, including increases in training but also the combination of life stress and training, which the body does not discriminate between. We are naturally driven to eat more when we are overworked and sleep-deprived. On top of that- less nutrition is available to us in highly fatigued states where digestion works like shit. Most people’s lifestyles have them dealing with one crisis to the next. Sitting in traffic, late to work, ramped up on caffeine and sugar may not seem like the world is going to end, but the signaling to our body is slightly different than the conscious experience. The signal of being late triggers deep alarm bells of anxiety. Traveling in a metal box at 80mph  feels like an extreme sport to the subconscious, and the daily compounding concoction sets us up like we're fueling for war every single day.
Add in lack of sunlight, movement & over-calorie-dense meals; Compounded with too little sleep — and you have… Well, what you have is our modern era, where the majority of people are quite dysfunctional.

If you feel plateaued, stagnant or struggling to tolerate &/or maintain your training, fitness; Juggling current workload & stress, relationships etc…- maybe more intentional and conscious recovery could be the answer.

Then wake up at 4:30 am and strangle the dragon in its cave or whatever.


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