The Ten Commandments of Recovery
Sleep! You probably won’t even consider this one, but it is the single best weight loss tool, muscle gain tool, training tool, life tool, I have ever encountered. Read about my short term study of more sleep in this section. The Cuban lifters sleep nine hours every night, PLUS a three hour nap! Turn off the TV and go to bed!
The body is one piece! Don’t think you have an upper body and a lower body. Stick a fork in someone’s thigh while they are benching and it will stop the lift, even though some think that bench presses are for the upper body. If you play three hours of pickup basketball games, it will hurt your training. If you slam tequila shooters with the cute girl just back from the Mexico trip, it will hurt your training. Staying up all night with sick children will hurt your training. An infected toe will hurt your training. You are one magnificent piece, keep that in mind. The first line of defense against injury and overtraining is monitoring your life as well as your training.
Don’t think about recovery and you won’t Hoping that you recover will not help you recover. Somewhere, in your calendar or training notebook, you have to make some clear decisions to focus on recovery. O lifting three days a week can exhaust the human body, but you can easily recover during the other four days off. You can recover unless you spend the other four days snowboarding, hauling rocks or playing six hours a day of basketball. I fully believe in “active rest,” adding recreational activities to help the mind and body heal, but you need to be very moderate in your non-lifting energy wasting movements. You also need to let the mind heal and recover. The first sign of exhaustion is the lack of enthusiasm to train with weights.
Program and Plan At some level, know what you are going to do in the gym each day. True, you can overplan, but basically have some idea why you are there. I like to focus on two things in each workout, this week and the next meet. Simply, each week, I try to be sure to include a solid pulling workout, a pushing workout, a squat workout and a technical workout. I might do each movement every workout, but somewhere in the week, I like to make sure I “worked hard” on each phase of the O lifts. Depending on how close or far my next O lifting meet is on the horizon determines the reps, sets or weights. That is a fairly simple long-term plan, but it seems to work. I often take an “easy” week, too, but I tend to cover the four elements in these weeks. I keep my “eye” on the long-term each workout. I remember watching new lifters back in college show up to the HPER gym with the newest magazine article that had them do multiple sets of multiple reps with multiple exercises for each tiny bodypart. Having no idea of even the rudiments of lifting, they would toil endlessly moving from tiny weight to tiny weight. True, they had a program, but no real plan! Make sure you keep each workout in full view of your long and short-term goals.
Eat your protein. Eat your fats The greatest mistake of my life was listening to the high carb nonsense of the Seventies and Eighties. It is nearly impossible to recover, not to mention grow and improve, on a high carb diet. You need protein and fat to recover, grow and improve. Ignoring this advice will be very detrimental to your lifting career. Don’t make my mistake! The Bulgarians are reported to get half their calories from fat, the Romanians discovered that ultra-high protein diets increased muscle mass (no surprise) and lifting ability. I favor the The Meat, Leaves and Berries Diet , but there are many other variations.
Minerals: Biggest Bang for the Buck I was sitting with Brian Oldfield, former World Record Holder in the shot put, at discus camp and he leaned over and told me: “None of these guys will listen, but they should be taking minerals.” Brian was tired of throwers asking about the newest fad in nutritions, mostly this or that magazine’s magic protein, and gave me the secret to recovery: minerals. “They are the biggest bang for the buck.” Magnesium and Potassium are my two secret weapons. Mg is the best single nutrient I can think of, see the Eades’ book, “Protein Power Lifespan Program” for more information. K is great, too, as any low carb dieter will tell you. Those two supplements are start to a better recovery.
Hot tubs and cold showers Myth or not, I don’t know, but the combination of hot tubs and icy showers is the best combination I have ever read about or practiced for recovery. The Bulgarians explained the benefits of both in the Seventies and I find the combination wonderful for joint recovery as well as a chance to simply “chill.” Cold showers have even been touted as a fat loss tool, so maybe you get an extra boost for doing them. I am convinced of this combinations ability to help recovery.
Ab workOkay, how does working more help recovery? In the area of abdominal work, it seems to help the O lifter. The Chinese lifters consider the abs a “second” backbone, hence stronger abs=stronger torso=bigger lifts. I like those ten dollar “ab wheels” as an ab workout, although sit ups and one arm work seem to help, too. If I have to explain how to do ab work, then…maybe you REALLY need to try another sport.
Splurge I bought a hot tub a couple of years ago. I have a friend who gets a monthly sports massage. A visit to a chiropractor might help some lifters…a vacation might help others. That is what splurge means: spend some money or time providing recovery. I thought of this while sitting in my hot tub watching the stars.
Pay attention to who you listen to Friends, family and training partners will often be your first line of noticing your overtraining. Also, pay attention to people you respect. If you trust somebody enough to follow their program, trust them when they tell you to ease off OR train harder! Discernment is a key “virtue” in long-term success.
Remember why you don’t listen to some people Once you decide on a route to take in training, be careful of listening to every “whisper in the wind.” Every time I lift at a spa, some gym expert comes over to discuss why front squats are bad, or some other moronic thing I honestly don’t have time to debate. “Dude, will creatine help my biceps?” I don’t know, I don’t care, honestly, I don’t. Magazines in the muscle field are one step from porn and cater to the fears and insecurities of adolescent boys. When you want into a nutrition store looking to buy “Horny Goat Weed” or some other “hot” supplement, remember “why you don’t listen to some people.”