Simple Recovery Strategies

Anyone that trains hard and often will preach to you about how important recovery is from session to session. As fun as it is to beat yourself up each day in the weight room or on the field, you need to do something to turn the ship around for the next days workout, practice, or competition. Here are a few quick and simple ways to help promote recovery from day to day.

foam rolling

Foam Rolling
As simple and as obvious as it is, spending more time on a foam roller will do wonders in making you feel a little better and recover faster, yet many people don’t spend enough time foam rolling. Training hard creates trigger points and adhesions within your muscles, knotting your muscles up and making foam rolling a somewhat painful experience at times. Spending 5-10 minutes a day on a foam roller would be an absolute minimum in my eyes, and if your a college athlete, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a foam roller in your dorm room/apartment.

Mobility/Flexibility
Thanks to Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD, stretching and mobility can now be fun. Taking 15 minutes at night to go through some type of mobility or flexibility drills can not only help you recover from the days work, but can help you turn the ship around for the next days training session or competition. Anyone can find 15 minutes to make themselves better a day, so make it a priority. Here is one of my favorites from Kelly for opening up the hips.

Get More Sleep
It seems simple, but getting more sleep is crucial for an athlete or weekend warrior training hard. Aim for 7-8+ hours a sleep a night, and try to get to bed and wake up around the same times each day so that your body can get into some type of cycle.

sleeping

Post Workout Nutrition
An often overlooked aspect of recovery is proper nutrition after training, whether it be strength training, conditioning, or a practice/game. Getting some quality sources of carbohydrates and protein within an hour after your session will help to promote the healing and recovery process. Something as simple as a glass of chocolate milk or a protein shake mixed in fat free milk is a great, easy and effective post workout shake.

chocolate milk

Take Rest Days
We have become a culture of “more is better” which isn’t the case when it comes to strength training and conditioning. You need to take some days off and let your body rest. A rest day is a great time to spend extra time with your foam roller and working on some mobility, taking the dog for a walk, or jumping on the bike for an easy ride.

HRV Monitoring
If you really want to take your recovery to the next level, buy yourself the BioForce HRV app. Simply put, the BioForce HRV app allows you to track your recovery from day to day by taking your HRV each morning. The app will allow you to track your recovery over time and readiness every day. With the app you can take the guessing out of the equation and train when your body is ready to train and take rest days when your body needs a little break.

hrv bioforce

Incorporate one, two, three or more of these ideas into your daily schedule and watch your recovery improve and performance in the weight room or on the field increase. Take care of your body, you only have one.

Summer Meltdown

With spring here and summer rapidly approaching many of us have come to the terms with the fact that we may have put on a little too much weight over the holiday season – let’s call it an extra winter layer, a layer we all want to get rid of before bikini season is officially upon us. Those extra inches weren’t much of a big deal when you can wear winter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and sweatpants but when you need to break out those t-shirts, bikinis, and bathing suits and show some skin, it becomes a little trickier to hide those inches.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am in the same boat as many of you. The difference between me and many other gym goers trying to rid themselves of that extra layer is how I will go about doing it. Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to go about getting back into shape. Unfortunately, most misinformed gym goers think that long hours on the treadmill and/or elliptical will cure their wintertime blues and slim them down in no time.

The fact of the matter is that the long hours doing slow cardio is a great way to drop some weight – just the weight that you don’t want to drop. Chances are a lot of the weight your dropping isn’t actually fat, its muscle, the weight you want to hang on to at all costs. In this scenario we end up dropping weight, be it scale weight, but never achieve a lean and muscular look that we are looking for.

Because I am a nice guy, I’m going to throw you a bone here and help you out. Here are a few tips on getting lean this summer while hanging on to all that muscle you have worked hard to build. While all the other gym goers are on the treadmill wasting away their muscle as well as their time, you can get in and out of the gym in a reasonable time while working towards a lean and muscular look that we all want to achieve.

Get Your Diet in Check

Here’s a pretty simple tip, yet a tip that it seems like no one actually focuses on for more than a couple days or weeks. It doesn’t matter how much and how hard you work out, if you continually find yourself at the drive-thru, you’ll never see the results that you want to see. As Mike Boyle simple put it, “You can’t out-train a poor diet.”

I recommend keeping things simple when it comes to your diet. Eat a nutrient dense diet with high quality foods. Eat 4-5 times a day. Make it a priority to have some type of quality protein source in each meal. Along with that, stay away from the empty calories and focus more on fruits and vegetables as well as carb sources like oatmeal or sweet potatoes at most meals. Finally, try to consume some healthy fats with each meal or as a snack between meals. A small handful of almonds and some greek yogurt is a perfect example of a great midday snack.

For more in-depth yet simple nutrition recommendations, MBSC strength coach Brendan Rearick wrote a great post on this a couple weeks ago HERE.

Continue to Lift Weights

Lifting weights has several great benefits, none greater than its ability to raise your metabolism for up to 24 hours after the workout. The catch is I am not talking about lifting light weights and doing 15+ reps on each set and falling into the false notion of “toning”. I am talking about lifting heavy and really pushing yourself, staying in that lower rep range (3-6 reps, maybe 8 tops). Lifting these heavy weights will not only raise your metabolism post workout, but will help you maintain and hold on to all that muscle.

Furthermore, stay away from single joint movements and focus on multi-joint movements. Exercises like the bench press, deadlift and all its variations, squats and other multi-joint movements will do more for you then all those curls and triceps kickbacks. You’ll burn more calories and work more muscles with the multi-joint movements then you will with the smaller single-joint movements. You’ll also gain more lean mass which will increase your metabolism and have you looking great.

To make things even easier, each training session pick one pushing exercise (vertical or horizontal), one pulling exercise (vertical or horizontal), a quad dominant exercise, a hip dominant exercise, as well as some type of carry. Keep it simple; perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps.

  • Vertical Push (overhead pressing variations)
  • Horizontal Push (bench press and all its variations)
  • Vertical Pull (chin ups, pulls ups, lat pulldowns)
  • Horizontal Pull (rowing and all its variations)
  • Quad Dominant (squat and all its variations, including single leg movements)
  • Hip Dominant (deadlift and all its variations, including single leg movements)
  • Carry (Farmer’s, Suitcase, Goblet, Overhead, Heartbeat walks)

For myself personally, I actually won’t change much, if anything, when it comes to my strength training when trying to drop a few inches. I still lift heavy, loading the weight on the bar and really having to work hard. In reality, your strength training program, assuming it is a solid strength training program, shouldn’t really change all (slightly less volume may work for some) whether you are training to add some size or training to drop a couple inches.

Perform High Intensity Intervals for Conditioning

I have written about this before so I don’t want to go into too much detail about it again. Whether you’re preferred method is to push a prowler, some sprints on a bike, some sprints on a track/football field, suicides, shuttle runs, running stadiums or some other high intensity technique, I could care less. I am much more concerned with the fact that you are actually doing something that is high intensity and not the slow elliptical cardio most everyone else is doing at the end of your workout.

I seem to find myself gravitating to bike sprints. I have never been a big fan of running so I stay away from sprinting on the track or football field. Ill simply jump on the bike and get after it. Sometimes I do 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off, sometimes its 20/40 and sometimes it is 30/30. Point is, I don’t overthink it, I just get on the bike and sprint away. After 10-12 minutes I am completely gassed and done more to burn fat than anyone doing 45-60 minutes of slow cardio.

Perform Complexes

More and more I am starting to really love complexes for fat loss. The idea of a complex is pretty simple; pick a handful of exercises and perform them all back to back. You can pick to do the exercises for a certain length of time or a certain amount of reps or even a combination of the two.

I am currently strength training four days a week. Instead of taking three days completely off, I perform some type of complex two of those other days and take the third day as a complete off day. It will usually take me all of 20-30 minutes and in the process I have jacked up my heart rate and metabolism. I picked four exercises (sled push, med ball slams, bike sprints, battle ropes) and rotated from one exercise to the next for 30 seconds on followed by 30 seconds off for a total of three rounds. It took me 12 minutes to finish the complex and I was absolutely gassed by the time I was done.

Summary

We all had fun, maybe a little too much fun, with all the holiday parties and foods. Now that summer is approaching its time to get a little more serious with our training and nutrition if we want to achieve that lean physique. Being the first week in April, we all have plenty of time to reach our goals before the real heat is upon us. Be sure to make your diet a priority, focus on picking the appropriate exercises and push yourself, and drop the long, slow cardio sessions for some more intense cardio sessions to scorch that fat. If you follow those few pieces of advice I guarantee you’ll drop a few inches and look better than ever once summer officially rolls around.

Life on a Cruise Ship

Being on a cruise for the last week has been a great on so many accounts. I can’t complain about getting away from the everyday grind and not having anything to worry about as well as being able to get up whenever I wanted to. It also didn’t hurt that I was on a cruise through the Caribbean that made stops in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Life can’t get much better than that!

Another great thing about being on a cruise is the food. Anyone that has been on a cruise, whether it is in the Caribbean or somewhere else, will gush over the amounts of food and the quality of food that you will find on a cruise. Unfortunately after a week on the ship I’ve come to realize that the amount and quality of food is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Because I am a fun-loving person I am going to start off with the good – food is everywhere and free. I’m not sure I have ever met someone who doesn’t love food, I know I sure do. No matter what you have a hankering for you can go find it somewhere on the ship. There are numerous buffets, a couple of coffee shops, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a steakhouse, a sushi joint, Johnny Rockets to take care of that fast food fix, and a pizza place, just to name a few. Being in the Caribbean while having all that at your disposal for free…how can you go wrong?

But you can go wrong and it doesn’t take very long. As I sat on the ship and had a jolly good time indulging in some foods that I typically don’t eat on a daily basis (I could eat ice cream and only ice cream every day for the rest of my life and have no issues with it) while simultaneously watching other vacationers indulge, I realized our idea of indulging was a little bit different. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought some of these people hadn’t had a meal in months and didn’t expect to have another one in the upcoming months.

As sad as it is, I would say that maybe 85% or so, and that may low, were stuffing their faces at all hours of the day. They were hitting up the coffee shop in the morning for a coffee and a couple pastries before showering and then making their way to one of the restaurants for breakfast. They’d then make a stop at the buffet for lunch, making at least two or three trips back and forth before calling it quits on the meal. Dinner would come around and people would have a nice, hearty dinner at one of the restaurants and make sure to wash it down with a piece of cake or some other dessert they would see floating around on the dessert cart. Finally, as the night was upon us most would make their way back to one of the coffee shops (a little caffeine before hitting the bars and gambling the night away won’t hurt anyone) for some more pastries and coffee or over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream. And don’t forget about all the finger food or slices of pizza people are eating throughout the day while walking around the ship.

Repeat this process 7 days in a row. Kinda gross, yet the majority of people didn’t seem to have much of an issue with it.

A little bloated after a day of food on a cruise

What you see most of these people doing on a cruise ship isn’t just indulging, its gluttony. I realize that a lot of the foods people are eating aren’t at their disposal whenever they want it in their everyday lives – there is something to be said for convenience.

I also realize that the food is all free which makes grabbing those pastries with your coffee before breakfast or that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after a long day of eating a little easier. But there is no reason to eat like its Thanksgiving every single day for an entire week.

While on vacation have a great time and indulge in foods that you don’t typically eat. I personally made a trip to Ben & Jerry’s almost every day (I told you I love ice cream). What I didn’t do was stuff my face every chance I had, I instead decided to pick and choose my spots. There is nothing wrong with grabbing a slice of pizza, just don’t grab a slice of pizza six times a day.

I made sure to stop by daily

Moral of the story is this: moderation is the key – you can have anything you want but you just can’t have everything you want.

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 12/7

Here’s a few good reads from the last week to keep you busy while trying to get through another productive day at work:

Are You Daily or Occasionally? by Martin Rooney

Great article with Martin reflecting back on his career and how he has grown into a great fitness mind through working his ass off day in and day out, not just occasionally.

How to Set-Up to Deadlift Properly by Tony Gentilecore

The deadlift is an exercise that not many people do yet everyone should be doing. Tony breaks it down how to properly set up for a deadlift so that anyone should have a pretty good understanding on how to properly execute the lift.

Addressing Weaknesses in Training and Life by Mike Robertonson

Interesting take on how to go about attacking weaknesses. Most people will tell you to hammer away at your weakness until it becomes a strength or at least on par with your strengths, but Mike thinks a little differently and I have to say I kind of agree.

The Benefit of Hill Sprints by Joe Lightfoot

I love hill sprints and you should too. An absolutley brutal and effective workout if done correctly. Read the article, find a hill on a nice day, and crush yourself.

Tips to Increase Fat Loss

A lean, healthy body is something that we all strive for but yet many of us are still chasing. Here are a few ways to get your fat loss furnace running at full speed.

1)      Consistency

One of the biggest reasons people don’t make the progress they want in the gym when it comes to fat loss is their consistency. Too often people go to the gym for a couple of weeks straight and then miss a week. Too often people eat a healthier diet for a couple of weeks and then fall off the wagon for a week. One step forward, two steps backward. By simply being consistent day in and day out you should see some positive changes, especially if you follow some of the other tips to come.

2)      Your Still Performing LISS/LSD

LISS (low intensity steady state) or LSD (long, slow, distance) cardio is the devil for a couple of reasons. One, it’s boring. Getting on the elliptical or the treadmill and spending 45-60 minutes a day gets old and it gets old quick…hence why consistency is such an issue. Get off the treadmill, you’re not a hamster. The second reason is because it’s simply not as effective as HIIT (high intensity interval training) and HIIT can be done in half the time it takes you to do LISS. Next time you head to the gym, try some interval training. An easy example of this would be 15 second all out sprints on the bike followed by 45 seconds of active recovery for 10-12 minutes. For more ideas and alternatives check this out.

3)      Lack of Compound Lifts

Try building your workouts around the big, multi-joint exercises. Lifts like squat variations, deadlift variations, pull ups and chin ups, and bench pressing will burn considerably more calories than the triceps kickbacks and dumbbell curls your trainer has you doing. Chances are with the multi-joint exercises you’ll build a solid pair of arms anyway with all the pushing and pulling you’ll be doing with much heavier weights than you were using with the kickbacks and curls.

4)      Add Some Good Weight

This almost goes hand in hand with using compound lifts. Compound lifts build muscle and strength than the smaller single joint exercises. The more muscle you hold, the faster your metabolism will be. A faster metabolism means more calories burned over the course of the day. Get stronger and add some good mass and get leaner.

Might be time for this guy to get a little stronger

5)       Your Diet is Crap

This might be the most obvious point on the entire list yet it’s something that happens all too often. You need to have some idea of what you’re consuming on a daily basis. I’m not saying you need to count calories, but I am saying you need to have a general idea of how many calories you’re consuming. You can’t try to lose weight when you consume 3500 calories one day, 1800 the next, 2500 the next, and so on. Find a caloric range that’s appropriate for you and try to stay within that range every day. Once you find an appropriate range, you can make the needed changes when weight loss begins to plateau by simply becoming a little more active to burn a few more calories a day or lower your calorie range on a daily basis.

Why Can't I Lose Weight?

6)      You Obsess on the Scale

One of the worst instruments to track progress is the scale. People get on the scale day in and day out and lose their mind when they are up 0.4lbs from one day to the other. Get off the scale and pay more attention to how your clothes feel and how you feel. Focus on what the mirrors telling you. Does it tell you that you look good? Like crap? If you like the way you look, does it matter what the scale says? Stop chasing a number on the scale and start focusing on what your eyes are telling you.

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump – 11/2

Here’s a few good reads from the last week to keep you busy while trying to get through another productive day at work:

Weight Training Programs: 7 Ways to Get Strong(er) Now by Eric Cressey

A good read for lifters of all levels with tips on how to get stronger. I’m pretty sure anyone that reads this will come away with at least something that will help them become stronger, which is always a good thing.

Set the Bar High and Scissor Kick Failure in the Face by Dean Somerset

This is the type of article that is about fitness but its not really about fitness, it can apply to any aspect of your life. Take a look at and then reassess some of your goals and aspirations.

Mistakes that Skinny Guys Make: Flipflopitis by Tony Gentilecore

A post in a long line of articles about the mistakes that skinny guys make. This one in particular talks about how most skinny guys flip flop between training programs and goals and as a result never really make any progress. A good read with some humor, as usual.

Show and Go! by Alwyn Cosgrove

This is actually from Eric Cressey, but Alwyn posted it so I’ll link back to his post. Eric created a 20-25 minute webinar about how to design strength training programs with a ton of good stuff. Highly recommended for someone looking to spice things up and/or make some beneficial changes in their program.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this. Ben Bruno, strength coach at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditoning, squatting 225 for 35 reps, which is absolutley insane!

Do We Owe Carbs and Apology?

Just wanted to share an interesting study that sport nutritionist Dr. Layne Norton posted on his twitter account the other day (twitter.com/biolayne). First off, if anyone doesn’t know Layne, he earned his PhD from the University of Illinois in Nutritional Sciences and is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to sport nutrition or nutrition in general. Throughout the whole low carb craze that swept the nation since the Atkins diet, Layne was telling anyone that would listen that carbs aren’t bad and that ‘don’t eat carbs after X time or else it will turn to fat’ theories and thoughts was a crock of shit. Well, once again, Layne was spot on.

As for the study…the researchers had 78 police officers on a low calories diet for 6 months, with one group consuming almost all of their carbohydrates at dinner while the other group consumed carbohydrates earlier the day. After the 6 month period, the group that ate the majority of their daily allowance of carbohydrates at dinner saw a greater amount of weight loss, a greater decrease in waist circumference, and a greater decrease in overall body fat.

Take home message…carbs, no matter when you eat them, don’t make you fat. If you’re fat, chances are you eat too much in general, not that you eat too much carbs or that you eat carbs at night. So the next time your personal trainer tells you not to eat carbs after a certain time or that carbs are the root of all evil, fire his ass, cause he has no idea what he’s talking about!

Carbs!!