Work hard, recover harder!

Just about anyone can plug in their airpods, put on a Rocky montage and go balls-to-the-wall for an hour in the gym. What separates the best from the rest is putting the same efforts into your recovery. 
It might not win me any friends for saying so, but it really isn’t that hard to show up to training a few times each week. If you want it enough you will find the time. Following a well-structured programme is critical; but after that, all you really need is adherence. 
But when the sweat has dried and Eye of The Tiger has stopped playing; can you show up to your recovery with the same level of dedication and consistency as the training itself? This, my friends, is what really makes a difference. 
You see, when we are in the gym or at the running track, we are subjecting our bodies to the stressors required for adaption to occur. But what actually creates adaptation is not the training itself; it’s the recovery afterwards. 
So, how do you optimise your recovery in order to create maximum adaptations, and come back fitter and stronger next time around? Here are a few of my favourite tips: 
#1 – Sleep
If you’re setting your alarm early and missing an hour of sleep to get your workout in, you’re probably not doing your body any favours. 
Sleep is essential for optimal recovery, a healthy central nervous system and balanced hormone levels. Sleep increases production of testosterone and human growth hormone, which help to build and repair muscle. Sleep also reduces the production of cortisol, a stress hormone which promotes muscle degradation and fat storage.
Experts recommend a minimum of 7-8 hours sleep each night for the general population, but the requirements of an athlete can be all the way up to 10. As a general rule; the harder you train, the more time you should be putting in between the sheets. 
#2 - Nutrition 
Hard training tears down muscle tissue and depletes glycogen stores. Make sure you are eating the right foods in order to replenish everything you lose during exercise.
Most of us know the importance of protein. Protein is made from amino acids, and amino acids form the building blocks of muscle tissue. Make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of protein each day – ideally 1.4-1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight. 
Less talked about is the importance of carbohydrates. Carbs break down into glucose, which provides the fuel for high intensity activity. If you’re training hard you’ll need more carbs; potatoes, whole grains, and fresh fruits are all excellent choices. 
Salt is also of particularly crucial to athletes with a high sweat rate. When we sweat our body loses important minerals; so an extra pinch of salt in your post workout meal can go a long way. 
And of course, your overall calories matter too. You’ll want to make sure you’re consuming enough to meet your energy requirements; or even exceed them, if muscle building is your goal. 
#3 – Active recovery 
Please don’t be that person who comes home from the gym and crumples into a heap on the couch. Consistent, low level movement (otherwise known as active recovery) will help to transport nutrients and oxygen into the muscles, and prevent buildup of lactic acid. WalkMake a conscious effort to walk more, stretch, and keep your body moving to prevent soreness and tightness the next day. 
For an extra recovery boost, you can try self-massage methods such as foam or tennis ball roll outs. And paying a visit to a sports massage therapist every month or so can help really release the areas of tension you can’t reach yourself. 
#4 – Yoga 
Following on from point 3, yoga is a wonderful way to mobilise muscles and increase blood flow. But this ancient practice is far more than just stretching. Yoga also has tremendous benefits for your central nervous system, which is why I’ll often employ a 10-15 minute flow after a workout to bring my body back to a parasympathetic (resting) state. 
#5 – Chill out! 
I touched earlier on the stress hormone cortisol; which accelerates fat storage, cannibalises muscle tissue and impedes testosterone production. When cortisol is chronically elevated, you can kiss goodbye to anything close to optimal recovery. 
Unfortunately due to modern day stressors, many of us are walking round with levels of cortisol far higher than they should be. Work stress, environmental stress, relationship stress and yes, even exercise stress all contribute; so you’ve got to take steps to reduce that stress at every given opportunity. 
To lower your cortisol levels, ask yourself – when do I feel calmest and most at ease? For me it is being out in nature, in the ocean, or spending time with friends. So I make sure I prioritise those things on a day to day basis. 
I also minimise screen time, turn my phone off before bed, meditate, play, and try my very best not to sweat the small stuff.  
Whatever habits and practices help you to manage stress, enjoy them on a daily basis. Book them in your calendar and treat them with the same priority you would a key business meeting. They are that important. 
(P.S: this tip will benefit far more than your workout recovery; your overall health, happiness and sense of fulfilment will skyrocket too!)  
Remember; the best athletes aren’t always the ones that train the hardest. They’re the ones that eat right, sleep soundly, and take care of their bodies outside of the gym. Do the same and watch how your results improve! 
Vivo Life Co-Founder