How to use Recovery as the Ultimate Performance Tool – Part A
I am noticing a pattern.
At this time of year, following winter in the Southern Hemisphere, people are appearing a little ‘run down’. It was the same last year, and the year before and the year before that and…well, I’m sure you are getting the picture.
It is November, the middle of Spring. The weather is warmer, but people can’t seem to catch a break from illness. Fatigue is mounting as we approach Christmas. We drag our feet and moan and feel exhausted. Among friends, clients and colleagues, I hear about recurrent illness, feeling old, brain fatigue, poor sleep, exhaustion, reduced ability to function, increased difficulty getting out of bed and increased irritability.
If an athlete were to present with these complaints, I would automatically question his/her RECOVERY. But what about us ‘everyday’ athletes? You and I may not exercise like elite athletes but are our ‘symptoms’ till a RECOVERY issue? I would argue YES. I would also go further and suggest that RECOVERY is the tool we ALL need to enhance our performance.
RECOVERY allows our body to re-establish homeostasis following the disturbance/disruption of an event such as exercise or acute stress. RECOVERY allows us to return to ‘balance’ and to our ‘normal’ modus operandum, our resting state. Even at low to moderate exercise workloads, for example, protein re-synthesis occurs to re-establish balance and replenish energy stores we need for our next bout of exertion (Foss & Keteyian, 1998). I would like you all to take three key points from this paragraph:
- Re-establish homeostasis
- Return to resting state
Now I am going to ask you a very serious question. When in your day do you allow points 1, 2 or 3 to be part of your timetable? When in the week do you allow yourself to re-establish homeostasis, balance and return to your state of rest? When in the year do you allow yourself to experience true REST?
Whether, an act of exertion is a thinking task (the brain uses a whole lot of energy!), a physical task or an emotionally stressful task, the body will attempt to return to your normal resting state. If it can’t, you will begin to experience some of the symptoms I mentioned in the first paragraph: brain fatigue, poor sleep, exhaustion, reduced ability to function, increased difficulty getting out of bed and increased irritability.
Also, your performance will decline. The belief that relentlessly pushing our self is the way to perform better and achieve success is outdated and ludicrous. If the body cannot achieve adequate recovery, then it will begin to operate at a deficit. And, over time, longer-term physiological changes will occur, including hormonal changes and metabolic changes (i.e. how you create energy).
The key to feeling better and performing at a more optimal level is RECOVERY. The concept may make sense in your head but in a busy week the idea of taking time out to rest may feel like nails running down a chalk board.
So, here is an activity to help you reestablish homeostasis and balance during the week, before you begin to feel symptoms of poor recovery.
BE PROACTIVE when it comes to recovery.
Take a piece of paper and draw up a weekly timetable. If you feel like this is too much effort, I have included a PDF for you which I have linked to the bottom of this post. Next, insert the things you must do in the week. You can even colour-code these tasks as LIGHT, MODERATE or HECTIC in terms of level of exertion (emotional, thinking or physical). Then, start to think where you need to add recovery to help you return to your state of homeostasis/balance. For example, my timetable will look something like this::
- 5:30 am – I wake up to plan my day and get into some research or writing – Intensity LOW to MODERATE depending on my stress levels
- 6:30am – 8:30am son wakes up and I make breakfast, do kid stuff, get him ready for school – Intensity level HECTIC
- 8:30am to 9:00 I am in busy traffic racing to the clinic – HECTIC
- 9:00 to 2:30 I am seeing back to back clients and trying to catch up on paperwork – HECTIC
- 2:30 to 3:00 I am racing back in the car to pick up my son from school
- 3:00 to 5:30 I have either dragged my son back to work to see more clients or I am trying to keep this busy 7-year old occupied with soccer or jumping waves at the beach – HECTIC
- 5:30-8:30 it is getting dinner ready, getting my little man into bed and then cleaning the house – HECTIC
It does not take long to see that I need to schedule some rest. Now, sitting down and meditating for 5 mins at the end of the day isn’t going to cut it. I have tried. Instead, I schedule my work week differently and if I have 2-3 days in a row of this sort of hecticness then I MUST break it up with a day of working from home doing less intense tasks such as paperwork and bookkeeping. Trial and error have taught me that if I do not use this recovery day, I will be in tears by the end of the week and significantly more irritable.
Now TEST and MEASURE.
With an athlete, if I use recovery tools with their training, I have certain variables I measure to see what impact it is having on their performance. We can do the same with this activity. My performance variables are currently around wellness and happiness. I also use sleep quality as an early indicator that I am not recovering. I have my own rating scales and I track these to see how I am going. As an Exercise Physiologist , this is the level of effort I go to, to ensure that athletes recover well, avoid burnout and perform at their best. As ‘everyday athletes’ we can use the same tools. We can avoid re-current illness and feeling like shite. We can improve our emotional well-being, our vitality AND dah di dah dah (cinematic horns playing) we can improve our performance.
RECOVERY is the ultimate performance tool, and if used proactively, can be an absolute game-changer in your life. Give this activity a go and let me know how it has created change for you.
I will be offering a follow up FREE webinar on proactive recovery. We will be discussing this tool, in addition to performance measures and the types of recovery you can use. To register for this webinar, click the link below and let me know in the comments section. If you are an athlete, don’t despair, I have athlete specific content coming out for you too. If you simply cannot wait, click CONTACT in the menu bar and I can help you develop your own strategies straight away.
Here is to living a more optimal life. Yours in health.