I wanted to thank you for the training as I am stronger, faster and becoming an all around a better athlete because of it. However, lately I have been getting my ass kicked in the training. Got any recovery tips to help me recover and keep making progress?
R & R
As you can imagine playing a 16 game season in the NFL takes a toll on the body. Add to that the countless hours of training in the off-season and training camp and the body goes through the meat grinder.
In 1999, I had the pleasure of playing with one of the NFL greats. This NFL/USFL great was a Pro Bowl punter and had played for 20+ years by the time I made it to the league. He was always great for bestowing choice knowledge on young players and has a cult following of those that had the pleasure to play with him.
One day while laying in the training room with ice on my knee he asked me about what I was doing to take care of body. It was an honest question…but I was a bit confused as I thought I was being proactive by icing my knee. So I shrugged my shoulders and waited in anticipation for enlightenment. He told me there were keys to keeping your body healthy and ready for combat, and if I wanted to play for more than a season, I better start being proactive.
Contrast. This is a practice of alternately submerging your body in hot and cold baths for varying lengths of time. Having worked with a few trainers I knew the standard recommendation was 3 minutes in the hot water followed by 1 minute in the cold, repeat 3 times. The importance of contrast was put into perspective by one of the NFL’s greats. In 1986, #7 was playing for the NY Giants and like every good NFL player on a fall Sunday morning he was at the facility preparing for the game. As he was heading out the door for pre-game he heard rumors that one of the key players was not in the building. After warming up he came into the training room just in time to see this key player getting helped in from the night before. He had gone out big the night before and the team had to send out a search party to find him. The head trainer set up two large tanks, one hot and one ice cold. They started dunking him back and forth…back and forth and after a few minutes of this, the player’s head snapped up. His eyes were a blaze and he was ready to go. As the story goes…he walked into the locker room, pulled on his gear, not bothering to tape his ankles or wrists, ran out of the tunnel as they were playing the National Anthem and proceeded to set the single game sack record.
Almost every day since hearing the story I have done contrast…many times twice a day. It is usually done in the shower, as I don’t always have access to cold tubs. This is the foundation in my recovery process…and world-class hangover remedy. I do not time the length of hot and cold exposure as I have always thought you should never follow the same protocol. But I always start in the hot and finish in cold and do no less than 5 rounds. As for temperature, I go as hot as I can stand and as cold as I make it.
Massage. Next to contrast, consistent massage therapy is vital to recovery. Once a week is ideal…however sometimes I am busy and have to push it out once every two weeks but never longer than 14 days. If you are training 4-6 days a week with heavy weights, maximum efforts, dynamic movements and sprinting you will need massage to promote healing and speed recovery.
Tissue Manipulation. This includes A.R.T and Rolfing. I find that some aggressive tissue manipulation can go a long way to preventing nagging injuries that slow and sometimes derail training. Find a quality A.R.T practitioner and see him twice a month to work on sore and trouble spots. And if you are feeling especially daring, enlist the help of a Rolfer. Rolfing is a form of myofascia release where they manipulate fascia and break up scar tissue. I have a weekly appointment with a Rolfer and it enlightening.
In other words, it is very painful.
Flexibility. I make it point to stretch after every workout. I have a routine that takes 10 minutes to perform and focuses on the areas that get the most use. In addition, I have been attending yoga 1-2 times a week to help with stretching and increase flexibility. Iyengar Yoga was recommended to me as it focuses on poses and it excellent for improving posture. I know that many types of yoga do not mesh well with heavy iron so make sure to take your time and find a style that works for you. Probably the biggest obstacle in performing yoga is actually going to the studio. Upon entering you will have to deal with new age music, the gross abuse of Lululemon, the strange guy “training” in his underwear and horrific stares by vegan practitioners that know you didn’t get to 300+ lbs eating kelp and soy protein shakes. If you can make it past the stares and whispers increased flexibility is the pay off.
Nutrition. We have gone into great length on this site about nutrition and how you should eat for performance so scout around.
Sleep. Sleep works as a restorative function for the brain and body. You should try to attain at least 8 hours, but you might not always have the time to sleep for 8 hours. So I developed an interesting perspective where sleep is like money in the bank. If you sleep 8 hours then the bank is even. If you only sleep 5 hours then you owe 3 hours that need to made up. You can do this by going to bed earlier or through power naps lasting no longer than 45 minutes. 45 minutes is ideal as if you nap longer than an hour you enter REM sleep and this will adversely affect your nighttime sleep cycle. But lets say you get lucky and sleep 9 hours, then you are +1 and can afford to stay up late to watch reruns of “How I met your mother”.
I believe the trick to sleep is consistency. Always try to wake at the same time…even if you go to bed late. This is key as it keeps your internal clock regulated, which goes along way toward Delta and REM sleep. Why is consistent Delta and REM sleep important? Delta and REM refer to the stage where the body secretes growth hormone to fuel recovery and growth. Just for your information…Delta sleep is deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is our dream state. Both stages are vital to recovery for the body and brain. We move through 5 stages of sleep, each lasting about 90 minutes. A healthy person will experience about 5-6 sleep cycles a night.
Another factor to take into account is when to go to bed. I go with my mom on this one and believe that the most vital hours are the ones before midnight. When I was little, my mom told me it is was best to sleep like a farmer and not a bartender. Farmers go to bed at 8 pm and wake at 4 am. Bartenders go to bed at 4 am and wake at noon.
Do not miss workouts.
Recently, we did a program where we squatted above 80%, 6 days a week for 9 weeks. The only days I felt sore or tired was the day after I missed a training day. There is a big difference in taking a rest day in your training cycle and blowing off workouts that are vital to getting better. A missed training day is a lost day you can’t get back. A rest day allows you get better by healing the body for the next training day. Know the difference.
And finally…Mobility WOD. If I had met Kelly Starrett at the beginning of my career instead of at the end there is a good chance I would not be writing this blog…I would have been playing tonight. I think Mobility WOD is one of the most important contributions to health and performance in years. Get in with the cool kids and add Mobility WOD to your daily training.
Restoration and keeping the body healthy is vital for all athletes. This includes the professional athletes playing on Sunday…tactical athletes deployed in harms way and weekend warriors looking to get better. Take these words of wisdom given to me all those years ago by a future hall of famer and good friend.
Train like you are in that 4%.