Training Hard or Too Hard to Train?
In the fitness industry all magazines, dvds and videos provide gazillions of exercises and workouts but there are not enough experts talking about the other side of the equation, recovery. After doing the exercises correctly and working out in sufficient doses, I believe the most important thing is recovering well. Recovery is critically impacted by sleep and nutrition but there are many other things that can be done to speed up the process. Sleep and nutrition are quite straight forward and there is a lot of information on this out there on these topics, so I will discuss other methods that improve recovery time.
The primary method I use for recovering is rolling and massage. Most people who know what myofacial release which is a manipulative treatment that attempts to release tension in the fascia due to trauma, posture, or inflammation are familiar with foam rolling but they usually don't go any further than foam rolling. Foam rolling is great but I think there is more needed than just a foam roller even for the average athlete. One thing I do before and after my workouts is rolling with a lacrosse ball or a field hockey ball to loosen up. I do this on my off days as well as a form of active recovery. There are many other tools out there for myofacial release but a lacrosse ball, field hockey ball and a barbel is sufficient for the baddest pro athlete. Doing myofacial release feels great and it will help your recovery dramatically. One of my favorite things to do is to watch a movie while laying down on a yoga mat with a lacrosse ball doing my tissue work. I put the lacrosse ball under tight spots for 5-10 minutes at a time. On a Sunday afternoon I do this while watching my favorite tv shows and drinking a cup of tea. I feel that most people who roll do not do it long enough. This approach definitely solves that problem. If you are interested in looking for other products Dr. Kelly Starrett has a lot good products on his site that may be useful to you.
I think one of the other best methods for recovery is using heat. I use a heating pad on my tight or injured areas and this goes a long way. Russians are huge on the Saunas. Wrestling Legend Dan Gable believed saunas were super beneficial. Multiple World and Olympic Medalist Dmitry Kholov even has a sauna in his house since he is a huge fan. I always say sucess leaves clues. In eastern Europe saunas were used for decades. Turkish baths to Native American Sweat Lodges have used heat therapy for decades. Toxins exit through the pores so you may want to make sure your skin is exfoliated and your pores are open. Taking cold showers between sauna sessions help with forcing toxins out since cold water makes pores smaller and pushes out toxins. I take daily contrast showers and lots of athletes do this for the recovery process. One of my favorite things to do is to take s hot bath or shower and stretch for 30 minutes. This is something I learned from my bjj professor. Combining these two methods will go a very long way.
There is lots of new research that show saunas improve athletic performance and all olympians and pro athletes are taking an advantage of it these days. I think Moderation is key. If you need more information you can visit http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/04/10/saunas-hyperthermic-conditioning-2/
Dr. Kelly Starrett who is a leading expert in the physical therapy field put up an article and video on icing explaining how it does not improve recovery. He believes that icing an injury increases the fluid build up and restricts lymphatic flow. This to me was quite shocking since so many athletes take ice baths to enhance recovery. I have lots of respect to Dr. Kelly Starrett and he may be on to something with this but even if he is right, I still think the cold baths, showers, etc. have other benefits and should be kept in athletes regimen to an extent. Exposure to cold has been proven to increase brown fat cells which is associated with weight loss and immune system function. For centuries exposure to cold was practiced for many health benefits among different civilizations. Wim Hoff, AKA the iceman is working with researchers and made progress proving that breathing techniques and ice baths improve immune system. Another example is the Russian practice called dausing which is similar to the whole ice bucket challenge and this too has numerous benefits. Before we jump the guns on cold treatment I think maybe it may be beneficial to look at the whole picture.