One of the key long-term training goals is to avoid injury. Recovery isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What you need to stay in peak condition varies based on the amount and type of training you’re doing, your work and life situation, your level of fitness, and a host of other factors. The keys to recovery are:
- Don’t overdo it. It can be fun to work hard and push yourself but if you go too far you’ll get injured and will have to stop until you get better.
- Take care of your muscles. Use heat, cold, massage, stretching, and anything else that works for you to loosen tension, break up knots, and improve circulation.1
- Sleep. When you are training hard it is even more important to get enough good-quality sleep; the more sleep you can get the better.
- Eat well. You need more protein when you’re building muscle with strength training. You need even more protein and high-quality carbohydrates when you are doing high-volume endurance training.
Mobilizing your muscles and joints ensures that you can make the proper movement patterns to unlock your performance potential and avoid injury. Kelly Starrett has a huge body of work devoted to mobility starting with The Ready State —née MobilityWOD—and continuing with The Supple Leopard and other books.
Tools & Equipment
There are a host of tools and devices to help release tension, improve circulation, and otherwise aid recovery. My favorites are:
- A lacrosse ball; inexpensive, effective, and readily available23
- Roll Recovery R3 for feet
- Tiger Tail Roller for legs etc.
- Percussive massager, like a Hypervolt
- Upgrade pick: Theragun Pro (the Bluetooth connectivity sounds like a gimmick but it’s actually useful)
If you struggle with knowing how and when to moderate activity, I recommend getting an on-wrist fitness tracker. Specifically, I have found Garmin’s Body Battery feature extremely helpful; it is available on most of their watches and some of their fitness bands. Body Battery does everything that Whoop purports to do4 without the subscription fee and it’s only one of the many features that Garmin devices provide.
A specialist in sports massage can do nearly miraculous things for relieving tension and pain you didn’t even know you had. A visit can be expensive but they are worth it if you can find the right kind of provider. ↩
Note, if you take one of these when traveling by air in a carry-on bag there’s about a 50% chance your bag will be pulled for further examination. Take it out of the bag before you send it through the scanner to avoid any issues. ↩
I use a CHAMPRO lacrosse ball (Amazon). I once tried to save a few dollars by getting some cheap ones from a sporting goods store that came wrapped in plastic film. They reeked so badly after I opened them that I had to store them in the garage or months for the oder to dissipate. It wasn’t worth it. ↩
Fitness trackers use heart rate variability (HRV) to gauge the amount of accumulated stress in your body. HRV isn’t that grate of a metric; it is primarily used because it is easy to measure with a fitness tracker. Self-assessment can be even better than a synthetic metric if you’re really in tune with your body and your level of performance. ↩