Recovery Energy

Posted: May 11, 2009 in Articles - Fitness
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Photo by claudiogennari

I’m big on recovery.

I give my recovery the same priority as my workouts.


Because my recovery ability sucks. Really sucks.

I can literally take myself from feeling amazing to the land of overtraining in the space of a few days and knock myself out of action for a week if I’m not careful.

Despite this I have had some pretty good results with my strength and conditioning reaching a 2.5xBW Deadlift and getting within spitting distance of a bodyweight Overhead Press and 2xBW Squat.  The only reason for this is a sound recovery plan.

In a previous post I talked about the basics of recovery but I wanted to throw out a more conceptual way to think of this stuff.

Yin and Yang… Crossfit WestCo Style

So, bear with me here as I’m gonna borrow a little from Traditional Chinese concepts here…

Ok, when you exercise, this is using external energies – the Yang.

Your internal energies are the Yin and this needs to be in balance with the Yang energy for you to feel fit and happy.

With me so far?

Too much Yang (exercise) without spending time to replenish the Yin and we hit overtraining.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, it’s the recovery modalities that replenish your Yin.

It’s a pretty simple concept, but by thinking in terms of energy balance it can help people give recovery the focus it deserves as it shifts thinking of recovery as something that just happens, to something you have to work at.  In effect, when you are not working on your training, you are working on your recovery – you become a 24hr athlete.

The Concept in Practice

The practical application of this involves listening to your body and knowing when you need to give more attention to replenishing your recovery energy.

Everyone has a different level of recovery energy and that will dictate how their workouts are structured and how

Step 1 – Is Your Training Level Approriate to Your Recovery Ability?

If you’re feeling like shit day-in-day-out then you may need to cut back on your workout intensity.  I’ve found that the number and duration of MetCon workouts can be a big factor in this.

People seem to love MetCons and are obsessed with the whole “more is better” mentality.  Well, being a “train smarter” kind of guy, I focus on what is effective and this translates into mainly focusing on shorter, harder MetCons in the 3-12 minute range.

These fit in well post-Weightlifting and are faster to recover from than 30-45 minute marathon MetCons.

The Weightlifting + short MetCon format is the weapon of choice for the athlete who is adding in extra rest days as discussed later.

Example Workout:

Snatch 75% x 1 x 5
Back Squat 3-3-3-3-3

3 rounds for time:
200m Run
20 Push Ups
10 Kipping Pull Ups

Step 2 – Rest days

Now some people can do 2 workouts per day everyday and feel amazing.  These people have a lot of natural recovery energy.  They are in the minority.

A lot of people burn out on a 3days-on/1day-off schedule.  If you’re one of those people then try 2days-on/1day-off or even just do every other day.

The thing to remember is that your workouts are there to make your life better.  They should be making you stronger – not weaker.

A way to gauge this is by monitoring your desire to train. After a rest day, you should be itching to tackle your next workout. If you aren’t looking forward to it or cringe at the thought of it, then you should consider just doing some maintenance work or scheduling in extra rest.

Step 3 – Treat Your Recovery with the Same Respect as Your Training

This means that you need a recovery plan that covers these basic points:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Sleep
  3. Hydration
  4. Stress Management
  5. Supplementation

A more indepth look can be found here.

Round Up

There you have it – all you need to make the shift in thinking that will make your workouts more productive and your life less stressful.

And just in case you’re one of those people who hates to feel like their not doing enough training…

“Recovery is training!!”


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