Coaching: Five essential elements to rest and recovery

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Coaching: Five essential elements to rest and recovery

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We all know that if improvements are to be made to performance, commitment to training in any domain, is vital. However, one area that can easily be overlooked and therefore hinder performance gains is rest and recovery.

In order to understand how to recover properly, the definition must be recognized and the difference between rest and recovery established. Rest can be defined as a combination of sleep and time spent not training, whereas recovery can be defined as actions and techniques implemented to maximize your body’s repair.

Below are the main components of rest and recovery which aim to enhance the process and improve performance.

1. Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep may be the most important aspect of recovery. Adequate sleep helps to provide hormonal balance and muscular recovery. Aiming for 7 – 10 hours sleep per night is ideal. Some individuals may have to make sacrifices and changes in daily routines in order to achieve this, perhaps cutting time watching TV for example. However, optimum sleep varies between individuals.

Research has shown that;
• Hours slept before 12 are more effective than those slept after.
• Sleeping in a more natural setting will create sleep of a higher quality.
• Fresh air and cool temperatures improves the quality of sleep.

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2. Hydration
Remaining hydrated is key to remain healthy, stay energised, enhance recovery and perform at an optimum level.

Many athletes often pay close attention to hydration during competition, however, frequently fail to pay attention during training and recovery, which can sometimes have just as much of an impact. Water has many functions within the body, from being part of muscle contraction process, to allowing the heart to pump blood more easily, whilst also flushing toxins created by exercise out of the body.

The simplest way to monitor this is to look at the colour of the urine. If it is a clear, yellowy colour you are hydrated, but if it becomes a darker yellow, brown, or black, dehydration has set in and water must be consumed. Some tips;

• Try to consume at least 2 litres of water per day.
• Keep an eye on urine colour to determine your own hydration levels easily.

3. Nutrition
Everyone knows that what you eat can affect your body, food has the ability to either help or hinder your body. The most important factor with regard to nutrition is to eat a balanced diet.
Food is fuel, when we exercise we burn fuel, this therefore means that once we have finished exercising, re-fuelling must take place in order to allow muscles to recover.

Ensuring that energy levels are optimised and restored by consuming complex carbohydrates, such as oats, potatoes, and rice, whilst also ensuring that muscles have a adequate supply of protein for repair can make the difference between taking a week to recover or two days.

Recent academic literature suggests the use of various supplements to aid recovery alongside a balanced diet. Some examples include; Omega 3, found to reduce muscle soreness after exercise, green tea promotes weight loss, antioxidants, such as blackcurrants, reduce inflammation and fatigue and whey protein shakes can help to ingest protein quantities rapidly after exercise.
It can be difficult to make the correct nutritional choices, but it is important to not let nutrition overrule your life.

Here are some tips to help achieve a clean diet;
• Plan and cook meals in advance.
• Eat clean foods that aren’t processed and consume a balanced diet.
• Consume complex carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta) and lean proteins (chicken, turkey, fish) at a ratio of 2:1 both pre and post workouts.
• Aim to consume 1.5-2g of protein/kg of body mass for optimal recovery
• Use some nutritional supplements alongside a balanced diet and enjoy food!

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4. Stretching
Stretching is important as it allows our muscles to remain flexible and helps to remove tightness. It is important to include stretching in workouts, with dynamic stretches before and static after.

Stretching helps to remove muscular tension and can therefore reduce muscle soreness after workouts. Try to find areas of tightness within your muscles and work on them, vary the stretches used and keep at it. Stretching can also aid posture, this can happen by loosening the tight muscle groups which are pulling your posture out of alignment, for example, cyclists’ gluteal muscles.

Some tips;
• Stretch before and after exercise.
• Plan the routine to ensure it doesn’t get skipped.

5. Massage & Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
Massage can be a good way to improve recovery times after exercise, although it may not be an option used regularly as it can be costly, however, after especially hard sessions it can be wise. Various research suggests that receiving a post workout massage can have many benefits, some of the main benefits include;

• Increased blood flow, therefore increased nutrient delivery and toxin removal.
• Decreased inflammation of the muscles.
• Increased mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell) activity.
• Reduced muscle tightness.

SMR also has many benefits and can be more popular as it is much less costly. It involves using a foam roller to remove adhesions (may be known as knots) within the fascia (connective tissue) of the muscle, which are caused by stress within the muscles.

The adhesions prevent muscles from working properly so must be removed. Use of a foam roller or similar, can remove them and allow the muscle to work more freely, other benefits include; prevention of injury, removing knots and tightness, and increased flexibility.

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