It’s easy to adopt an all-or-nothing mentality when training but managing recovery can actually help you reach your goals faster. The better you recover, the better you perform in-session, leading to epic strength, fitness and physique changes. Here are four proven ways to optimise your recovery time so you can set more PBs.
1. Make active recovery non-negotiable.
Active recovery means something different to everyone. Whether it’s leisure walks, yoga, a sauna session or binging an entire season of Friends, all are valid and useful. No matter your poison, recovery should be purposeful and a non-negotiable part of your overall training.
A solid active recovery plan should:
- Enable your body to repair and replenish after a series of tough workouts.
- Develop mobility, flexibility and core strength that your workouts may be missing.
- Enhance your body’s ability to move with more ease.
2. Manage your training volume.
As it relates to lifting, training volume is calculated as the total amount lifted in a single workout – so your cumulative sets, reps and load. Training volume should change weekly or monthly in order to keep your body guessing and allow for progress, as well as ensure each body part has optimal time to rest and recover.
Training with too little volume will inevitably lead to stalled progress as your body becomes accustomed to the workload. This is why tracking your lifts and programming is so important!
‘Resistance train at a high enough frequency and intensity: 50 to 80 working sets over the week, and with a maximum RIR (reps in reserve) of four per working set,’ recommends Lizzy Rawdah, Co-Director of Flex Success.
On the flip side, if you’re always lifting heavy (80-95 per cent of your 1RM), your body can’t recover fast enough between sessions to perform at its best, eventually leading to injury. Here’s an easy example of how to manage your training volume for the barbell back squat, where each week either sets, reps or load changes:
Week 1: 5 sets of 4 reps @ 65-75%
Week 2: 4 sets of 6 reps @ 65-75%
Week 3: 4 sets of 3 reps @ 80%
Week 4 (deload): Back squat – 3 sets of 5 @ 60-70%
3. Eat to perform, not to reward.
How you eat affects your ability to train more efficiently and recover faster. Unfortunately, the majority of women under-eat for their goals, causing frustration at lack lustre physique and performance.
Exercise Scientist, Nutritionist and STRONG Australia expert Tom Fitzgerald recommends the following meal composition:
The aim of the pre-workout meal is to provide fuel while ensuring there is no intestinal discomfort during your training session. A macronutrient split of 10-15g protein, 30-45g carbs and five to 10g fat is a good mix before training. Fat intake slows gastric emptying, so it’s wise to keep intake low before a session to avoid the feeling of food sitting in your stomach.
Sample meal: Greek yoghurt topped with oats and banana
The emphasis switches to protein for recovery and topping up carbohydrates lost during your session. Aim for 25g protein and 40-100g carbs, depending on the length of the session, your goals, and if you are backing up the following morning. Fat intake should be around 10-20g — a slower rate of gastric emptying is okay.
Sample meal: If you’re training in the evening, a lean beef stir fry with rice and plenty of vegetables or similar.
4. Clock quality sleep.
Even when your nutrition and workouts are all dialed in, sleep remains the single most important factor for your recovery and performance. This is prime time for your body to recover, repair and restore itself, so you perform better mentally and physically the next day.
Eight to nine hours of sleep is adequate for the majority of the population, but depending on how hard you train and your general stress obligations, you may actually need even more snooze time. Experts suggest that shutting off all electronics an hour before bed allows your mind to unwind and sets the stage for high-quality sleep. Other ways to encourage optimal sleep include using light-blocking curtains, taking a melatonin supplement, sipping on chamomile tea and doing a brain dump in a notebook right before bed, aiding stress levels and allowing you to sleep through the night.