Sleep is the most important time to recover. Adequate levels of sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. You need to get enough sleep, which is between seven to ten hours for most athletes. Everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle, workouts, and genetic makeup.
- Hours slept before twelve at night are proven to be more effective than those slept after.
- Sleep in the most natural setting possible, with minimal to no artificial lights.
- Wakeup with the sun if possible.
- Fresh air and cooler temperatures help to improve the quality of sleep.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. Athletes tend to be very attentive to hydration levels close to and during competitions, but keeping that awareness during training and recovery times can make just as large an impact. Water helps all of our functions. A few examples are more efficient nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart, improved skin tone, and better hair quality.
The simplest way to check hydration is to look at your pee. If it is clear to pale yellow you are hydrated. The darker and more color in your pee the less hydrated you are and more water you need to drink.
- Water is the best way to hydrate.
- Sports drinks are only needed for before, during, and after strenuous training or completion, don’t drink them simply because they taste good.
- Flavorings, Crystal Lite, and other additives simply give you system more to process and cause it further strain. Stick to adding a lemon or lime.
Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to poison it. This may sound strong, but alcohol and processed foods contain toxins and are harmful to the body. I do not like to recommend a specific diet, but eating clean and balanced meals in moderation is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance. Dairy and wheat are processed differently by everyone and you need to educate yourself on these topics and how they personally affect you. Some people process these food items very well and have no side effects, while other people have slight to severe autoimmune reactions. Start with a paleo diet as your base template and add to it based on your experiences, not what you read by others.
Food in our society goes far beyond fueling the body, so it is not always such a simple choice. We go out to dinner, and most social events have food. The key is achieving balance so you get the results you want, but can also function as a normal person and enjoy life.
- Create a meal plan and shop ahead for the week.
- Have healthy snacks readily available that you enjoy.
- Plan ahead for dinner out by helping to pick the place you’re eating and looking at the menu ahead of time.
This is one of the least focused on areas in the American culture. We on average spend more time sitting than any other country in the world, and as a general trend have bad posture. This is not a restful position; sitting or standing with bad posture is harmful. It can lead to back or neck pain, specifically for those with desk jobs.
- Find a chair that is ergonomically correct.
- If you struggle to sit upright use a foam roller or ball in your back to give you a tactile cue and help force good posture.
- Don’t lean to one side or on an object for support while standing.
You need enough flexibility to move well and remain pain free. Include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups while saving static stretching for after your workouts. Go through my previous articles that included screens on the squat, hip hinge, and ankle movement. Attempt to self-identify tight areas and work on them. Don’t get caught doing the exact same stretches you’ve always done. If you don’t know any new variations look through the previous articles, attend a yoga class, or check out Kelly Starett’s Mobility WOD.
6. Self-Myofascial Release
Tight muscles and trigger points sometimes need assistance to return to healthy normal tissue. Read my article on foam rolling for more information.
7. Heat, Ice, and Compression
Use these techniques for recovering from injuries or a very stressful training or racing experience such as a road marathon or the CrossFit Games.
Spending some additional time focusing on rest and recovery can pay dividends beyond additional training time. It’s essentially legal performance enhancement, yet people don’t take advantage of it because it takes time. Dedicating additional time primarily to the three categories of sleep, hydration, and nutrition will increase your output ability, decrease recovery time, and lower your risk of injury. It’s the trifecta that all coaches and athletes aim for, yet most people miss the mark because they don’t want to dedicate time to the little things that matter most. Don’t ignore your body until it becomes too late and you’re forced to take unnecessary time off due to injury, burnout, or worse.