Race / Training Recovery 101

by Mike Ferguson

With every athlete on the planet trying to constantly improve and push their bodies to the limit, it's no wonder that recovery is a huge component to athletic performance. Many times athletes including myself get caught up in trying to always push harder, heavier, faster, longer; and if we don't see improvements, we think that we're slipping. This, in fact, couldn't be further from the truth as a lot of us are over-trained and under recovered. 
Writing this sitting in an ice bath, it's only fitting that we start with cold water immersion or ice as my first recovery tactic. 

Cold water immersion or ice

There are many benefits to submerging yourself in cold water on a routine basis that include reducing inflammation in and around the muscle tissues and ligaments in a way that, in my opinion, cryotherapy doesn't. I will routinely sit waist deep in cold water 3 days a week for about 10 to 15 minutes and check emails. I will add ice if I need a deeper cold, but cap myself at 10 minutes based on research that I have read. Another awesome benefit to routine cold water immersion is improving Sleep Quality which is why I usually ice bath in the evening a few hours before bed. 

Sleep! As much as possible

In my opinion, sleep is the most underrated and most important recovery tactic that is available to all of us. Sleep is one of those topics that all all of us athletes know about but few actually apply it.

I always hear people saying I'm so tired and I wish I would have gotten more sleep. I understand that life is busy, and there's dozens of circumstances why we don't sleep as much as we should. From my experience, I recommend a minimum of 8 hours a night. It's also important to keep a routine sleep schedule to allow your body and circadian rhythm to adapt to a sleep routine which will help you fall asleep faster and deeper.

Sleeping not only helps with allowing your body to heal itself but also to help itself detox in the form of fasting.

Time restricted eating / Intermittent fasting

These are really the same thing, but two different ways to consider fasting. Fasting, in a sense, gives your digestive tract a break and allows blood to divert to where it actually needs healing. Studies have shown that by fasting for a minimum of 10 hours up to 72 hours helps the body with fighting inflammation. New studies have found that during longer fasts, the body produces higher levels of human growth hormone as well. I think there are lots of benefits to eating within a certain window of time. I will try to eat within an 8 hour window and have the majority of those calories in the later part of the day.

In my opinion, diet would be the second most important thing behind sleep in speeding up recovery. There are numerous foods, supplements and oils that help with inflammation. Here is my go to that I use on a daily basis.
    • Organic turmeric powder on almost everything I eat.
    • Organic Wild Harvest chaga mushroom powder.
    • High doses of liquid vitamin D
    • Fish oil
    • Magnesium (pill form)
    • Adding in pink Himalayan sea salt to your water
    • Avoid dairy, gluten or anything that's hard on your gut
    • A good, clean probiotic pill
    • CBD oil. I use Elevate that partnered with Spartan. 
Outside of those products, I believe in eating a clean healthy balanced diet. Anything that doesn't make you feel good should be removed from your diet. I don't believe in eliminating things unless you have a bad response to them. An example for me would be eliminating dairy years ago, and I no longer have stomach issues.

Stretching, foam rolling, active recovery

Stretching is another one that a lot of people talk about doing, but few people actually do it. I made a goal this year to stretch more; and even then, I still find myself struggling to do it daily. It's very easy to forget about or put off after a workout.

I prefer to stretch after workouts. On recovery days, I prefer to do my stretching in the sauna. My wife introduced me to next level stretching through something called yin yoga... which is holding positions for long periods of time to get deep into the tissue. These holds could be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

Foam rolling is another great recovery tool. We have one in each room of the house to utilize while watching Netflix or on the computer. I even have one where I work from home sometimes as I like to stand on it and roll out the arches of my feet. I am not partnered with this company, but I highly recommend a Rollga foam roller.

Lastly, I think active recovery is way overlooked. I feel better after a hard workout if I just do something to stay loose. Literally the worst thing you can do is stay still as you'll become extremely stiff reducing blood flow to the areas of the body that need recovery. My active recovery is usually one of 3 things.

  1. Sauna. I try to hit the sauna a few times a week and use it as a way to help detox the body through sweat while I'm stretching and doing dynamic movements. I typically try to stay in for about 20 minutes but that's about as long as I personally can handle.

  2. Cycling. Jump on a bike 2 maybe 3 times a week, and try to keep the legs moving and loose to increase blood flow. Spin class works too, but if you have a choice, I would stick with biking outside for the Vitamin D through sunlight.

  3. Walking. I read an article a few years ago about what are Olympic track team was doing on their off days and was surprised to read that they will walk for miles on their off day as it's very little impact but keeps them loose and feeling good for the next workout. I try to walk as much as possible. When I go for an active recovery walk it's somewhere around 2 hours of just casual walking where I can catch up on podcasts or listen to audiobooks.

 At the end of the day, the secrets to recovery are hardly secrets at all. We simply have to take the time to do what we already know is best for maximizing our training and preserving our bodies. 


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