Monday, August 29, 2011

Fitter and healthier, much faster!....or mastering the art of recovery

Remember this formula?

Improved fitness levels = Stress (from training) + Recovery

We covered it for the first time in one of the first posts (Only 15 minutes!) about training. The focus at that time was on how to effectively and efficiently stress your body during training. Well, it’s now time to focus on the equally important, but usually forgotten, second part of the formula.

If you are training consistently, rest and recovery are critical for your body to really become fitter and healthier.

Check the above formula again: if your recovery is non-existent, what you end up with is only stress! And I am sure you do not need more of it.

For fitness enthusiasts and athletes, it is important to keep in mind that all stress is cumulative. Work, family duties, life challenges, climate changes, diet changes, physical stress (yes, that includes training!), and other stresses are all added up and cumulated.

This whole load of stress is handled by our bodies through a very effective mechanism lead by our adrenal glands (or suprarenal glands – located above the kidneys). These glands produce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare us to handle these situations effectively by making our heart beat faster, dilating the air passages to get more oxygen, increasing the blood sugar levels, and by focusing many other body resources to handle the stress. As a result, our attention is heightened and we have the extra energy needed to fight and survive.

Sounds like the perfect protection system, right?
It is! But it is intended to work only for short “emergency” periods.

The problem is that with modern life, we are surrounded by stress sources. Thus, this effective mechanism very rarely switches off. And while it is constantly working, it is impeding the proper functioning of other important systems in the body, like the immune system.

See where I am getting at?

If you do not provide enough rest and recovery to your body, not only you stop improving your fitness levels, but also you end up chronically tired, injured, and with a weak immune system.

Do you know athletes who are full of allergies, or catch colds frequently?
Now you know why!
They are doing too much, too soon.
And their bodies are just breaking down.

Have you ever heard the motto “No pain, no gain”?
If you have, cancel it from your mind! Now!

This mentality is at the base of many frustrations and injuries in sports. It promotes one of those terrible cycles that we need to be aware of in order to avoid them:
-      Initial rapid fitness improvement from hard training (when the body is still fresh and able to cope with the stress)
-      Decrease in results (the body is starting to get tired)
-      Harder and longer training (mistakenly thinking that this will produce results again)
-      Sickness (colds, allergies, etc) and/ or injuries appear
-      Training even with painful injuries and sickness (thinking that otherwise fitness will disappear)
-      More severe injuries and sickness appear (the body has finally broken down completely)
-      The pain becomes too much and results seem something that happens only to those “genetically gifted people”
-      Sports and training are abandoned completely, with worse health and fitness levels, accompanied by many injuries and great frustration.

Balance is key!
Too much of anything is detrimental.
Even if it is a "good" thing!

So, if you are passionate about sports (like me) be careful about how “obsessed” you become with training. Sport and training need to be challenging to produce results, but the level of the challenge has to be just a little bit above what your body can handle at any given moment. If you do more than that, you are only wasting your time and making yourself sick.

Training and recovery are opposites that work only in relation to each other. As with other things in life, they need to be in balance to get the best results.

The Yin and Yang symbol from Taoism

As your mind needs quiet and relaxing periods to reflect and learn the most from your life experiences, your body also needs moments dedicated to rest and recovery to assimilate the training and become stronger.

So, the idea is to get continuous improvement by constantly looking for the right balance between stressing your body with training and then letting it recover and heal properly to become stronger. Once it is stronger, it can handle a greater stress and the process can start again over and over.

Sleep well, take days off and do not train too hard, too soon!
Easy, right?

Well, that is a good way to get results without hurting yourself.

But how about finding ways to maximize your ability to recover (without using drugs)? You would be able to train a lot more, still assimilate the stress, and be able to transform it in greater fitness and health levels at a much faster rate.


Nope, not at all!
It is possible!
And it is doable by anyone who masters the Art of Recovery!

Through the Art of Recovery, you can get fast and continuous results throughout the years. And it is with consistent training throughout the years that you become SUPERFIT!

So, if you want to learn how to master the Art of Recovery, check the next posts as I will be sharing many tricks on this front.

OK. That’s it for now!

Tired from reading?
Go take a recovery nap!!! ;)

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