Rest and recovery might be the most important training you’re not doing. And there’s an explosion of products that want to help you do it better. Here’s how to navigate the hype and get the most out of your body’s natural rebuilding efforts.
Can you shop your way to faster recovery and pack in a few more quality workouts this week? With the proliferation of recovery beverages, bars, clothes and devices on the market, it seems like it: Just do this/wear that and you’ll spring out of bed in the morning, ready for your next interval session.
Of course if it were that easy, we’d all be winning medals. So what does work to help you recover from a long or hard workout and get you ready to nail the next one?
“The world of recovery is a mixture of folklore and some science,” says William Sands, Ph.D., former director of the Recovery Center at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. And, he says, a lot of “I saw an athlete do X so it must work” reasoning. “It’s not always wrong, but much of the time it is. And unfortunately, a lot of the science that should be straightening out all of these recovery questions is still in the beginning stages,” says Sands, who’s currently the director of education at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. That means there’s a big gray area for myths to grow in. Here’s the truth about some of the more popular ones:
Myth: I don’t really need all the recovery days my coach gives me.
Truth: Sure, tough workouts that leave you fatigued are essential to hitting your goals. But so are days and weeks when you’re not doing that. “You dig the hole, and that’s OK,” says Sands. “But you have to fill the hole and then make a hill to improve your performance. The worst thing you can do is dig a hole and keep on digging. If you don’t rest properly, you can sabotage your training.”
“It’s easy for athletes to think that if they’re going hard, they’re getting fitter. That’s not true,” says Matthew Weatherley-White, co-founder of a popular-among-pros online tool called Restwise that helps athletes know how recovered they are. “Hard work creates the conditions for physiological adaptations. And adaptation happens during recovery. If you don’t hit the best stress-to-recovery balance, you’re not optimizing your training.”