Most people who are diligent enough to workout on a regular basis forget the other side of the fitness coin – recovery. Results do not take place during a workout, only between workouts and only if you recover enough for good things to happen. Here are 5 ways to get even better results with the same amount of exercise:
#1. Cut back on alcohol: even though alcohol makes you sleepy, it also makes your sleep unproductive. Alcohol massively reduces the quality of your sleep. Sleep is one of the absolutely essential components of recovery, so drinking really puts a damper on your recovery.
#2. Get up: to make your body feel awful, workout really hard then hop in the car and take a four hour drive. When you get out you’ll be as sore and stiff as you can remember. Why? Restricted blood flow. With all of your weight pushing down on your legs, butt, and back recovery doesn’t happen.
Our modern lives are less extreme versions of the same plan – we sit for our commute, sit at work, and sit at home broken up with some walking here and there. Make it a point (especially when you are sore) to get up and move. Take the stairs, walk somewhere, spend 5 min on a foam roller, and if you want to get fancy you can even incorporate a formal “active recovery” day into your fitness routine. Here’s the shortest explanation I can give of how to do an active recovery day: do our RAMP UP again, but today you’re just going to warm up and maybe foam roll some more, but that’s it.
#3. Don’t be so serious: when we’re 4 years old we laugh about 400 times per day, and by the time we hit 40 years old we’ve cut that all the way back to laughing 4 times per day. Laughing is one of our most important stress release valves. We have 2 sayings at my gym: (1) You can’t out-train a bad diet, and (2) You can’t out-train a sour face. Maybe this video will help… if you don’t find it funny, it’s your sense of humor and certainly not my acting that needs work.
#4. Check your breathing: Stand in front of a mirror and stare at your collar bones. Now take a deep breath. Did your collar bones move? If they moved then your “stress breathing” from your neck and shoulders.
You’ve got two sets of breathing muscles that correspond to the two halves of your autonomic nervous system (ANS). One half of your ANS is the fight, flight or play dead portion (sympathetic), and the other half is your rest and digest portion (parasympathetic). You can’t control your ANS – control how stressed or relaxed your are, but you can influence it a lot with how you breath.
Breathing with your neck and shoulders pushes you into fight or flight (it also makes your neck and shoulders tight because those muscles weren’t meant to be in use all of the time for breathing). Breathing from your belly pushes you into rest and digest and often helps to relax your neck and shoulders. Belly breathing also improves core function and can help you finally find your lats. When your body is very often in fight or flight mode recovery is not prioritized, whereas relaxing breathing does just the opposite – pushing your body towards rest and digest, prioritizing recovery.
#5. No screens in the bedroom: get the tablets, smart phones, TV’s and computers out of your bedroom; and replace with a battery powered alarm clock on the far side of your bedroom (so you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off). Social media, texts, emails, web surfing are all stimulating and mildly addictive things. Whenever you get a text or a “like” you get a little shot of dopamine to your reward center which perks you up and keeps you hooked.
Being stimulated by these devices makes the process of getting to sleep longer, more difficult, and it massively reduces the quality of sleep you get in many ways:
You enter sleep wound up which ensures you’ll wake up at least a little tired no matter how long you “slept.”
The stimulation from your screens can take an hour or two to wear off which means you’ll be laying awake in bed until your brain calms down costing you precious hours of sleep.
Having your phone next to your bed makes it very hard to fall asleep because of that low level anxiety (will I get an important text tonight?!?), and when the “important” message comes through at 2am, it makes it very hard to get back to sleep afterwards.
The kind of light these devices emit bumps up cortisol production and decreases sleep quality (the light only needs to touch your skin, your eyes don’t have to be open). This is part of why you wake up so tired when you fall a sleep on the couch watching TV.
Josef Brandenburg is the founder of The Body You Want Fitness solutions a DC personal training studio that focuses on helping normal, busy people with average genetics get and keep the bodies they want in the time they actually have. Find out more how to get DC weight loss results while you also have a good time.