To me, training consists of 3 parts: training, recovery, and nutrition. All are equally important, and one cannot outpace the other two, if you want to progress in your training.
This will be the first post in a series of articles on Recovery. I am going to focus on Sleep.
At the outset of this post, I’d just like to say that I have no background in exercise science, nor any formal coaching experience. As a result, all of my knowledge about the more technical aspects of training and recovery come from research or personal experience. This post will be largely anecdotal, but I hope I can at least provide a frame work to approach your own rest and recovery.
Recovery can take many forms, and there are many ways you can improve your recovery, either physically or mentally. Primarily, recovery takes the form of sleep, and I don’t believe anything will hurt your recovery more than failing to get sufficient sleep.
Personally, if I get less than 7-7.5 hours of sleep the night after a workout, I feel truly wretched the next day.
Ensuring you get enough sleep is the most basic way to help boost your physical and mental recovery.
I am a restless sleeper. I usually wake up 2-3 times during the night, and I have great difficulty falling asleep in the first place. I struggled with sleep for a long time, and when preparing for my first Strongman contest, my sleep suffered, and, as a result, my recovery suffered.
There are a few key practices I had adopted that have helped improve the quality and ease of my sleep.
- Blue Light Filter – firstly, I try to shut down the major electronics and take some time to switch off before bed. Usually 20-30 minutes before bed I’ll shut off the laptop and TV. These are the major sources of blue light, which keeps me very stimulated and using my laptop until bed make sit hard to fall asleep. Secondly, I downloaded a blue light filter for my phone. The one I use is called Twilight, and it programs itself to the daylight hours, and gradually decreases the amount of blue light your phone screen gives off as night falls. This has been a huge help in falling asleep, and has the added bonus of not scorching your eyes if you check your phone in the middle of the night.
- Caffeine – I’m a bit of a coffee hound. I used to drink quite a bit, but my sensitivity to caffeine remained fairly high. To help sleep, I avoid any caffeine after 5 pm. This one is purely personal, as my sensitivity to caffeine is fairly high. No afternoon coffee = better sleep.
- Stretching Before Bed – Every night, I devote 15-20 minutes to a simple circuit of basic yoga poses and stretches. While daily stretching is a key part of active recovery, this has the added benefit of helping me unwind from the day. When I lay down to sleep after my stretching routine, I spend far less time tossing and turning to get comfortable.
These three, very small things, have helped me improve the quality of my sleep. I feel much better rested in the morning, even if I get fewer hours of shut eye. I hope this can help you, even in some small way, improve your recovery.