There is no secret that recovery is the new black. Professional athletes are hiring sleep specialists in order to recover well and hence perform better. We all have experienced how sleep effects recovery; usually when you go to sleep earlier you feel fresher and more rested in the morning. Sleep is vital and as you will see below it plays an important part of your recovery but it's not the only way how to improve your health and performance. Having an individualised recovery plan can help with cognitive overload, enhance performance both on the field and in life, prevent disease and improve moodiness. Plus if you are like me (heading towards 40) and you are trying to find ways to promote long lasting top notch performance and health, then you need a recovery plan.
I want to approach this article not from the perspective of how I can recover the best to achieve my personal best record in the gym or how to be the best player on the field (although all these tips will help you to achieve these). I want to focus on recovery for overcoming life challenges and to remain level headed and be a good person and yes the rest will come too.
We need to implement more action steps into our daily life so we can stay on top of this game called LIFE.
Life and its demands can be challenging. We must find some easy to follow promoters in order to deal with those unfriendly disruptors. Nowadays, we are challenged physically, emotionally, environmentally and we have no choice than deal with this. We must adapt.
This is the type of recovery where you do nothing. You do not engage in any physical activity. This can include massage, hot tub or listening to music.
Personally my preferred way where you generally do something what you really enjoy, it's not very intense and you are able to take some rest and relax with it. This includes gardening, walk or light workout. A blend of both passive and active at appropriate times is what I think is essential for longevity and health. Usually your body will tell you which is best.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED...for me
For me, things are not the same anymore. In my 20's I did not have any tips for recovery as I felt I didn't need any. I bounced out of the bed without any hesitation or saying "ohh ok, my body feels different today..." Especially when you have some weird dreams such as playing a match against Nadal or shooting puck with your team mates (who can play with Nadal for five hours - apparently me..in my dreams!).
ADAPTABILITY - this word is everything for me. We have to adapt on many different levels. I definitely had to adapt to new responses in my body. Whether this means finding new ways how to become more resilient and more open minded in my physical approach. Long story short I had to adapt in order to keep thriving (and keep up with Chantel😃).
MY TOP 5 RECOVERY TIPS
Like with everything, every recovery plan must be individualised and variable.. I can't imagine that we all enjoy the same activities or have identical time availabilities. However I hope that these tips will spark some ideas because I personally believe that recovery is on the same level like being healthy - they are both tied up together and both are by far more important than performance.
1. SLEEP/WAKE CYCLE
Sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, anxiety, and more. To feel your best, it’s vital to get proper sleep.
Before mentioning any other tip, it’s important to note that if you don’t allow enough time for sleep, nothing is going to change! The amount of sleep that is required varies from person to person. I am functioning the best when I achieve 7 hours. HOWEVER, the length is not as important for me as quality and time when I go to sleep. I consider myself as a good sleeper. I fall asleep pretty easily and sleep the whole night. When I have an issue to fall asleep I imagine me inside the hammock on the white beach, surrounded by palms and listening to ocean and holding Chantel's hand. THIS REALLY WORKS.
To avoid some circadian disruption I personally go to bed at 9.30pm to be asleep at 10.30pm so some serious cognitive/physical repair can begin. I wake up consistently at 6.30-7.00am when I begin my morning routine. Read my morning routine here. (point #3).
In order to sleep well, I must eat well. Some people do well eating a smaller dinner (especially those with digestive issues). Others do better with a bedtime snack, such as those who tend toward low blood sugar. In general, though, it’s best to go to bed neither overly full nor hungry. I also make sure my diet isn’t too low carb or low fat, as these types of diets can also lead to trouble sleeping.
I am personally fine with some carbohydrates before sleep such as white rice or my favourite baked potatoes. My nutrition is very variable and well thought. Thanks to my clever wife we are not biased towards any nutrition style but rather trying to achieve diversity and listening to our bodies.
When I travel I don't eat on the plane (even if I fly long hours). I drink only water, regularly throughout the day and occasionally a glass of organic red wine. I eat home made chocolate almost twice a week - again thanks to my wife and I eat more and more vegetables and grass fed /pasture raised meat. Since we moved to Byron Shire we have an easy access to organic sourdough which is happening once a month. I do love my extra hot cappuccino almost every day which does not disrupt my sleep. I never say no to a quality ice-cream (we actually know only two brands here).
3. MANAGING MY STRESS
I could not decide which one is more important. Sleep or stress. I lost my sister and dad almost in the same year. My life expectations and priorities have changed. As a result of this, I deal with those disruptors differently. I ALWAYS make sure to find a positive on every negative. My family is now much smaller than it used to but those two tragic events helped me to realise what in life is really important and what is not worth the worry. I remember to celebrate more. Every little achievement, every day. I live every day like it is my last - no regrets.
I treat people how they treat me. I always try to be the better person. If people don't like me I walk away without being angry or rude. I understand that everyone has so much on their own plate and everyone deals with "things" differently (I have learnt empathy) and I don't want to be angry on people, it's a waste of my precious time. I just choose not to be around those who are not lifting me higher. I approach this with "Good luck and good bye style". No hard feelings.
From the physical stress management, I have a routine which I do before going to bed. It includes breathing, hip decoupling drills, restorative poses. People are telling me very often I should start doing yoga. I believe in the benefits of yoga but I feel I manage very well with my short but achievable routines. Both from a mindset and mechanical stand points.
One thing has helped me to manage stress, being around and with the team at IoM. Before, I stressed about being right, believing only in my ways and struggling to understand why people are so stubborn. Now, I am reminding my self to keep an open mind and wear a continuum based thinking hat. Chantel is working very hard to help me with this too and I feel better.
4. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
You would not probably guess that this would be number four but to be perfectly honest the strategies above deserve more attention and work.
I value both purposeful exercise (structured) and movement (unstructured). Both are sitting under the umbrella of physical activity. Purposeful exercise is my gym/studio personalised program I am using to achieve specific outcomes. It makes up a small percentage of my schedule. Because of this, exercise alone will not offset disease. I exercise around three times a week and for me, exercise is equally as important as movement.
However low intensity intermittent movement makes up most of my personal time. I love going for a long walk and talk to Chantel, mobilising multiple times during the day and I actually love vacuuming or cleaning the car. I simply try to move most of the day time. There are some key benefits of these low intensity movements such as mitochondrial density which helps promote cell health, improving cardiovascular function, boosting circulation and reducing inflammation. It also reduces the risk of 35 major diseases including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity related diseases.
For more about Importance of Physical Activity and all about it d o w n l o a d IoM Health app.
5. MINDLESS ACTIVITY
We know how stress contributes to everything from insomnia and anxiety to obesity and heart disease and that scientists have devoted vast amounts of attention to understanding the mechanism of the fight-or-flight response. They have found that when a person is faced with stress, the sympathetic nervous system triggers a cascade of physiological changes that result in increased blood flow and spikes in adrenalin levels. (Your Personal Paleo Code, Chris Kresser, 2013).
On the other hand, we are also designed to enjoy life, to bond, to heal and relax. This will create more parasympathetic response. So that I am ok to deal with the stress and challenges that come my way, I also make sure I have enough time for things where I completely relax don't have to think too much.
In order words, I am trying to bring as many things I enjoy my life and allow me to switch off into my life as possible. For some, it can be things like seeing friends often, play with the pet, listen to music or volunteer in local events.
I love watching ice-hockey! Any hockey game - preferably NHL - is a music to my ears. My wife always says that she has never seen me more relaxed than when I watch a game. I don't think about a clients program design or if I sent all emails I had to. I just watch, immerse myself in the game and have fun. Pure joy.
Another pleasurable activity is hanging the clothes out - yep!!! Especially when it's sunny and warm. Love it. Of course, not everyone enjoys this and that's not the point. The main question is, do you have any pleasurable activity when you can turn off and relax? If so, do them more often.
These are my top five recovery strategies that I use to help me perform at life. I make sure I have them in my daily life and highly recommend if you feel like you are not recovering that you find yours. If you follow them and allow your body the chance to really recover, all other areas of your life will improve. You may even find that you love and respect life even more.
Why live an average life if we can have the best time ever.