Recovery

Recovery

Choose to recover or let recovery choose you

In order to achieve a high level of physical skill you need to have a good relationship with recovery. If you are somebody that thinks recovery is something you only have to do when you're injured or when you're exhausted - then this is the mindset that you will need to change.

Imagine you are building a house made of wood. You have already created a strong frame and you are continuing to build upwards and outwards. Through rain and bad weather you begin to notice your wood gets damp. After several months this damp begins to turn into rot, after a year this rot begins to break the wood and eventually the entire structure collapses.

If you had really wanted to build the best house possible you would not allow the house to collapse, nor would you allow the house to deteriorate into that condition. One solution would be that immediately after you noticed the rot you could treat the wood, replace and repair where necessary. However, the most seasoned house builder would know to look out for the rot before it even arrived. This house builder would take the precautions of covering up the structure until it has been made fully water resistant.

Why would you, somebody that claims to want the best for yourself not make sure that you are prepared for all eventualities?

You are making a small sacrifice now in order to protect yourself from injury and to sustain your training in the most optimal condition - a injury free, long and smooth sailing career. 
You have a finite amount of strength and energy. there will come a point within training where you have put too much stress on a certain part of your body, perhaps you begin to overcompensate in one area with another, etc. These are some classic, common ways to lead to injury.

Recovery in Practice?

To begin shaping a more positive relationship with recovery we need to define what it means in practical terms, physical recovery is generally compromised of:
- Warm up / cool down
- Stretching
- Massage
- Accessory exercises (e.g. physio) 
- Sensible training 
Hidden beneath each one of these categories is quite a lot of detail, but it is relatively easy to condense it in a generalised way to give you sort of rough map of a plan that you can tweak for yourself and begin to follow.
The first thing is to note that education is huge part of recovery. It is your job to educate yourself on what you specifically have to do to recover optimally based on the specifics of your physical skill, your body, your own weaknesses, etc. No one knows your own body and how you feel better than you do. 

Your unique prescription

Without knowing these things you will not be able to get the most out of this plan. Obviously education is an ongoing process and you don't need to "know it all" before you can start the plan. Try your best to answer the following questions in as much depth as you can think of and that's all you need for now to get started.
- Do you have any injuries pre-existing ailments or any knee niggling aches and pains?
- What would you consider to be your weak points within your skill?
- What are the most common injuries that people doing your skill get?
Once you have the answer to these three questions you already have enough specificity to know where to start looking in terms of specific, pinpointed recovery techniques. 

The Universal Recovery Plan

This recovery plan condenses everything into 3 main sections.
The first step is to be done during before and after a practice session within your discipline - this is compromised of is warm-up and a cool down.
The second step of this plan is a daily recovery session lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour - this depends on how long you have to spare. During this session you should focus on self massage, accessory exercises and stretching.
This can be general body maintenance session or specific to whatever you are feeling on that day.
The third step is to occasionally go to an external professional such as a physio or a massage therapist. Qualified professionals treat you in a way that is superior to any way that you will be able to treat yourself.
Step one - warming up and cooling down after every single session. This may already be included in the session itself and if not does not really need to last longer than 10 to 20 minutes but obviously the more time you can spend the better. As this step is structured around your training sessions, also contained within this step is the idea of keeping each session sensible - you know what that means in terms of avoiding injury.
Step two -  this is a daily session that you have to integrate into your practice and might initially seem like a big deal to make this extra time. Doing this step successfully does take some discipline and if you can then try and integrate this into something that you already do. For example, if you can do this in the evenings when you will usually be watching television you will find that you are able to 'stack the habits' and making it seem easier and slot well into your current regular routine.
Step 3 - I would usually interpret this step as a massage every month or every couple of months, depending on time and budget. The only time when I would visit the physio is if I've noticed a niggling injury or have a potential concern about something.
LeBron James spends millions each year on improving himself; his recovery, health, nutrition etc.
Obviously we are not all LeBron and we don't all have LeBron money. The point is that you should invest in yourself and you should see these as very worthwhile and necessary investments.

Equipment

You are going to need certain amount of equipment for self massage and doing physio exercises at home. The bare minimum includes a massage ball, a foam roller and a physio band.
You also need a soft area on the floor stretch and do exercises on preferably using something like a yoga mat.
Other pieces of kit that I would highly recommend are a massage gun, physio stick and a yoga wheel.

Conclusion

The big question really is, what do you actually do within these sessions, what stretches and exercises?
This is so dependent on your own practice that you need to take what we've covered so far and put it all together. You have your unique prescription - start there and begin to educate yourself. You can start from doing things like looking at simple yoga routines on Youtube for stretches. Watch physio exercises by typing in your specific requests (e.g. physio exercises for a bad back, recovery from running exercises, etc).
Starting today: type in one of these things and follow the first routine you see, simple. The next day try different video,  repeat this over and over, then in a number of weeks you will slowly start to recognise different exercises and things that you enjoy and that help you and suit your goals.
Over time you will build up more knowledge within this area and you will be able to craft an effective routine that you are able to continually adapt and improve. 
We've already mentioned the book 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' and would highly recommend this as it can be considered a bible for recovery. It's full of mobility prescriptions with pictures and references all laid out in a simple way that you can easily find specific exercises. 
You might be thinking: what about nutrition and supplements? They are obviously also a huge part of recovery but we will cover these topics in a separate article.

 

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