Three Tips To Recovery
In my humble opinion, recovery is the most underutilized supplement available. It’s free and all you have to do is carve out the appropriate time in your schedule to accommodate planned, purposeful, decreases in activity. I feel comfortable assuming that many skiers aren’t skiing at their full potential because of an overactive output. My confidence comes from my personal experience of doing exactly that for years. I would habitually stack training sessions on top of mountain bike rides, running, and strength training. Unfortunately, the desire to constantly be doing something always prevented me from operating at 100%. In the moment, this seems minor but in the grand scheme of things, an inability to recover properly and manage intensity will only result in underperformance or injury. So what do we actually need to do with respect to our individual recovery? What modalities should we be utilizing and what can we expect in return? Hopefully this blog post answers some of these questions by giving you my three tips for improving recovery time.
1. IMPROVE SLEEP, DAILY
Welcome to the most valuable performance tool. Everything the body needs to operate happens while we're asleep. Memory recall, muscle recovery, management of cortisol production, and even weight loss can be directly linked to quality sleep. However, it seems that, at least in America, we equate restful nights of sleep to wasted time with a high opportunity cost that could have been spent on more productive tasks. We fail to recognize how useful sleep is to our body’s ability to recover, repair, and rebuild damaged cells and tissue. It’s this restful state that gives some athletes the all-natural competitive advantage over their peers.
About two years ago I sat for a weekend seminar with Adjunct Professor of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Jennifer Martin. We assembled to discuss the impact that sleep coaching could have on our clients. I was floored. My entire understanding of sleep hygiene, and how management of my sleep environment could impact my life, was turned upside down. I left that seminar fully committed to improving my sleep. I eliminated all electronics from the bedroom. No more television or computers in the bedroom, no more texting or scrolling namelessly on social media, and no more YouTube videos. Instead I purchased blue blocker sunglasses to wear at night for the hour leading into bed time. I ordered a reading light to attach to my hardcover books and a kindle for travel. Then I set some healthy boundaries around how I got ready for bed which included a night hygiene routine, journaling, and breathing exercises. Over the next year and a half I took my measured average nightly sleep from 6 hours to 7.5 hours! My energy went through the roof and I began to train jiu jitsu in addition to strength training and skiing. I possessed more mental acuity during the day and relied less on caffein for my job. I cannot stress enough how these small habit changes impacted my life, ability to strength train, and my day to day mindset.
Of course, this was a process. I had many sleepless nights in the beginning. Nights filled with frustration and anger knowing what I now knew about sleep duration but lacking the skills to achieve my new goals. I debated scrolling social media many nights but held true to my new commitment. Fortunately, I stayed the course and now have a healthy relationship to sleep and recovery. Plus, it’s a snowball effect. Once you achieve greater sleep, you become interested in other ways to get a leg up on daily performance and mental function such as weekly sauna use, cold exposure therapy, and other forms of regenerative activity. These were all the product of taking my sleep seriously. You too can make small adjustments and reap the benefits.
PLAN TRAINING SESSIONS (PROGRAMMING)
I didn’t design The Ski System to cure daily boredom by replacing it with an attachment to daily content creation, weekly blog posts, a weekly podcast, and daily interaction with our members. I created The Ski System to solve a problem. I wanted to help skiers of all skill levels achieve better performance on the ski hill by providing them with elite-level strength programs that could be scaled to their individual needs as an enthusiast. And I want to be crystal clear about something: There is a substantial difference between working out and training. The former is movement for health benefits. The latter is working out for a desired performance outcome. Do you want to improve a specific area of your skiing? You need a training program. Do you want to apply more pressure to your edges through a turn as you fight the forces of speed and gravity? You need a training program. Do you want to ski through mogul lines with less fatigue and increased durability? You need a training program. Do you want to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by exercising for more than, or equal to 150 minutes each week in accordance with national averages and recommendations from the American Heart Association? Then you can do a workout.
But here’s the rub. The most valuable aspect of a training program is the ability to manage output through planning and structure. Ever go to the gym with no idea what you’re going to do only to find yourself trying to do the heaviest lift you can in a specific area? Or do you end up repeating a past workout from high school that used to feel good? These are symptoms of a lack of planning. When we don’t know what to do, we will do what we remember. A training program will outline what you should do. A training program will provide you with the structure to achieve your desired outcome by managing your weekly intensity, reps, and rest time. You just show up and execute. This way, you’re always moving forward with intention. That’s what The Ski System is all about and that’s what you will get by training on our programs.
When you manage your intensity, you thereby manage your recovery. With planned days of increased or decreased output (which are baked into The Ski System programs), you will be able to better show up each consecutive day without running the risk of overtraining, or worse, injury. If you alternate, as most programs do, between heavy, medium, and light output training days, you will reduce the likelihood that you over work a theme. To improve hip strength for example, you don’t want to just come in and deadlift as much as you can each day. Instead, you must alternate between the prime movement, complimentary exercises that strengthen blindspots, and variations in difficulty of the previous elements. These all come together over the course of a planned program to achieve the desired goal. Everything else is just guess work and fitness for fitness’ sake.
ACT ON NUTRITION
Although I’m not currently qualified to give nutrition advice, create meal plans, or advise individuals on their macronutrient intake, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide my personal opinion on nutrition as it is central to performance. I completed my Precision Nutrition Level I certification in 2015 but it has since expired. I decided not to renew the certification as I quickly realized that many of the struggles my clients’ dealt with were more centrally rooted in psychology, not food. I knew I wasn’t going to go back to school to obtain a psychology degree, so I instead decided to simply advise clients on what I’ve seen success with on a personal level. If anyone needs help beyond the scope of this article, I highly suggest seeking out a licensed professional and working through your relationship with food. They will provide insights and guidance that no trainer is qualified to deliver.
So here’s what guides me in my nutritional choices. I take this directly from food journalists and writer, Michael Pollan, who once wrote that you should “eat real food, mostly plants, and not too much”
It’s so simple and so effective. You can bring those three questions to every single meal you sit for. Is this real food? Is this plate comprised of mostly vegetables? How much am I about to eat? If you can answer these three questions objectively and act in accordance with your answer, you will begin to choose the right amount of food for your output. You’ll notice that there’s no filler in these rules. It doesn’t say eat keto, eat vegan, eat carnivore, eat paleo. It says to eat whole foods. But why does this matter? It’s not even true that all processed foods are bad. That’s because some processed foods are fortified with minerals and vitamins that don’t naturally occur in whole foods. But, by consuming whole foods, your’e going to naturally find yourself consuming more nutrient dense foods that should hopefully aid you in living a more healthy performance-based lifestyle.
When you get done with a training session, ask yourself: What will help me recover quickly? The answer can be found within those three rules and if you’re still unsure, try to consume total calories relative to your daily output. If you consume more than you expel, you will retain weight. If you consume less than you expel, you will lose weight. If you consume an equal amount to that which you expel, you will net zero and stay the same weight. If you want to improve muscle mass, increase protein consumption and keep carbohydrates and fat consumption the same while maintaining exercise output.
As always, thank you for reading! Don't forget to check out The Ski System Podcast.