Elite Trainer Tom Hall explains how to perfect your down time and speed up your progress
The culture of go hard or go home is fundamentally flawed. In today’s culture of instant gratification, and the incessant rush for instantaneous results, it seems the only exercise worth doing is that done at 100mph. But those high-intensity zealots are missing half the picture. If you want fast progress and a true high-performance lifestyle on a tight schedule, then you need to slow down.
True, recovery is having something of a moment right now, and the average gym-goer is starting to view their fitness as a more holistic endeavour than constant sweat, but there’s more to recovery than sitting on the sofa. If you truly want to slow down to speed up in the gym, it’s time for you to follow our four-part plan.
Hit The Pool
I ask all my clients who train three or more times a week to jump in the pool (we have one at every club – so no excuses!) so that their muscles can benefit from a little water compression.
They don’t have to swim, some aqua jogging aids recovery much like a compression garment by increasing blood flow and improving circulation to tired muscles. However, research found that swimming as recovery on the day after an endurance workout can actually increase your time to exhaustion in your next training session by 14%, which scientists believe is down to the pool’s power to reduce inflammation. It’s proof that proper recovery protocols can improve future training sessions and therefore help you to get more out of your week of workouts as a whole.
The weightlessness will also help to take the pressure off your joints after an hour spent under heavy metal.
Roll With The Foamies
You can supercharge the restorative effects of swimming with some self-myofascial release at home. Using a foam roller spend just 20 mins rolling on every muscle you can. Pair this with a mobility flow and you’ve got yourself a very effective at-home recovery session to deploy after tough workouts. Make this a regular fixture with the ROMWOD app, which provides daily stretching routines for athletes – that’s you by the way.
Remember: foam rollers are for larger muscle groups, use lacrosse balls for those small ones. Put pressure on a point for 60-90 secs and don’t move. Then find your next spot.
Eating on rest days is essential. People get too caught up in calorie deficits and, because they’re not working out, will cut back on food when they’re recovering. Don’t. Whilst you’re training hard the aim is to stay anabolic (an anabolic state is where you’re rebuilding muscle tissues or just body tissue), which requires fuel. Without enough calories you’ll go catabolic and recovery will be tougher.
Also, unless you’re on a strict ketogenic diet, your muscles’ main source of energy is carbs. Fill your face with these on your recovery day and you’ll restock your muscles for a tough training session the following day. Empty muscles can’t perform and you’ll be unable to maximise a training session. The hour session you’ve carved out in your busy schedule will be wasted. True high-performance means making the most of every minute in the gym – and that means carbs. Pass the pasta.
Finally, at a time of year when the office lurgy is closing in, supplements are a useful ally – especially when you’re training hard. I’m not going to go into specifics because it can get too nerdy when the most important thing is a good diet, but I take: a multi-vits, vit D, omega-3s and protein shakes. This casts the net wide and tops up the most useful things your body needs to recover fully. In my opinion, if you add these into your general diet then the chances are you will aid recovery as a whole from having better balance. No magic or clever marketing required.