Recover Like A Pro

Recover Like A Pro

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Recover Like A Pro

Because ‘training’ is a lot more than just exercise

WORDS Dave Nixon, Functional Trainer and Athlete






If you’re into fitness then you would have surely heard one or all of these sayings at some point.

I bet you’ve also been told that you should be aiming for 30 minutes of exercise per day? Hey, I love training, sweating and lifting. I love training so much that I would rather catch up with someone for a training session than catch up for coffee. You know, to find out who that person really is. But the truth is: we exercise too much. Not all of us, but some of us exercise enough to make up for the other half that don’t.

What I have learnt along the way, though, is that training isn’t always exercise. Training takes a big toll on your body. If you look at the intensity most people aim to train at every day compared with the weekly training load for an athlete, you will see a noticeable difference.

Athletes taper and periodise their training. Why? To avoid injury, burnout and improve performance. They spend hours upon hours a week making sure that they are completing the amount of recovery they need in their training program to ensure that they can perform at their best and for the greatest part, injury-free. The general population, however, does not.

In short, we all want to train like the pros, but we don’t want to recover like one. 

In the western world we are usually introduced to weight training during early or even late adulthood. And let’s be honest, just benching and doing a few arm pumps isn’t preparing my ‘whole’ body for real life lifting or moving heavy loads. At this point in our lives we already have most of what I call G.A.S (General Adult Strength). You can get a female
or male adult and chances are they can pick up anywhere from 40kg-80kg on a deadlift, once, poor technique or not.

They have over the years, due to whatever level of moving they have done coupled with their natural level of testosterone, increased their strength up to a point.

Now it’s time to get to the gym and get stronger. So how do we measure strength improvements? Well, by muscular size and weights of course! How silly of us. Our concept of strength is very juvenile compared to countries that have made a science out of lifting weights. We use the most superficial attributes to measure our progression. Both of those factors are simply by-products of paying attention and developing the finer details of your training.

Strength, however, is a full body output and most of us are operating sub-par. It’s the difference between your current potential strength and current useful strength. Your muscular system can handle it, but your connective tissue and the nitty gritty stuff that supports the joints takes much longer to develop and it is this nitty gritty stuff which plays just as large a role, if not larger, in developing strength over time.

There is something to be said for years of spatial awareness and body intelligence development. Tie this in with years of submaximal lifting and you have yourself the best recipe for bullet-proofing your body against niggling injuries. “But that takes time,” I hear you cry.

Well, the time will pass anyway. So get to it.

Firstly, the skill development of lifts and body control is crucial. Couple this with a balanced physical bank account (PBA) and you have a solid base of training and lifting for decades to come.

The physical bank account refers to the things we do that give to the body and the things we do that take away from it. This bank account wants to live in balance, not surplus. Exercise, contrary to popular belief, is actually a withdrawal from your account. It takes from the body. “But if I exercise, don’t I stay young, fit and healthy?” You do - as long as it lives in balance with recovery.

Exercise and inactivity are withdrawals: they damage the body in different ways. The good news is that recovery practices give back to the body. If all you do is exercise then you will be in debt. In contrast, if all you do is “recover” then you will be forever in surplus.

Note: I use the term ‘recovery’ instead of rest. It’s not rest; planned inactivity is simply giving your body the opportunity
to recover and go again. It’s part of the process that you shouldn’t feel bad about, or hate. You should look forward to your recovery. It paths the way to a pain-free and performance-enhanced physical state.

So what are the best ways to recover and prehab your body?

Mobility is greatly overlooked and should be added into your warm-ups and cool-downs. If you don’t, it’s just a matter
of time before you are going to have to. Either do it now or pay a physio to give you boring exercises to do for rehab later. Grab yourself a couple of tools and do your research. I am a big fan of increasing your health IQ and improving body intelligence. These refer to your total understanding and knowledge of your body.

The best toys to get started with are:
1. Foam roller
2. Hockey/lacrosse ball
3. A small to medium elastic band

There are plenty of YouTube channels (such as Mobility WOD – Kelly Starrett is my favourite) to show how to best
manage your joints and tired muscles. You shouldn’t have to live with a restricted range of movement. That’s not living at all. Get the toys and do your learning. It’s the difference between results coming and going and actually being able to use your body and its potential strength for years and years to come. And that’s just not in the gym; it’s outside of it as well.

Keep in mind that it’s not just mobility work that can give back to your body.

Other awesome ways to do so are:
1. Sleep, 7-8 hours per night
2. Good nutrition
3. Reduce stress
4. Drink adequate amount of water – 2 litres per day is a good starting point
5. Massage, chiropractic, acupuncture and physio
6. Contrast bath/shower (hot and cold)
7. Recovery walks

I know some of these aren’t always a realistic option for all of us. A common problem I see is that many people aren’t
able to get adequate sleep due to factors such as shift work or children. That’s life, though, and it’s what you signed up for. So you have to do your best to cover on the other factors as best you can.

Swap your current ‘exercise regime’ for a training routine and start loving mobility, prehab and recovery. Remember,
training isn’t always exercise.

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