Thursday, March 15, 2012

Accelerating Post-Workout Recovery Can Blunt Adaptation & Growth

     If you're trying to make long term strength and performance gains in your training then too much emphasis on expediting recovery may actually hinder your progress some experts are now discovering.  For example, taking NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen or applying ice to minimize soreness & inflammation can undermine our body's natural adaptation and repair process, primarily by reducing post-workout prostaglandins which are acute triggers for repair.  Remembering that it is in fact the micro-trauma & tears to our muscle fibers and other soft tissues (and the associated soreness) during intense exercise that actually triggers repair to begin, and the follow-on growth and strength gains, many efforts taken to minimize or expedite this natural, crucial recovery process will hinder or even inhibit long term adaptation & gains.

NEVER give up your Foam Roller!...but remember post-workout soreness is GOOD and the GOAL!

      Of course all recovery efforts aren't bad.  A good night of sleep, proper nutrition, massage, and even some supplements can assist in the body's natural recovery process without interfering or accelerating so much that the adaptation & gains are compromised.  As one gets closer to a competition or race-day, the training can then shift from long-term adaptation to feeling 100% and at their peak potential, so at this phase, all recovery and preparation efforts can be combined and applied.  A practical approach to take may be to treat recovery strategy like training strategy, where you can apply periodization cycles staged up to and around competition or race day:  You can peak your recovery efforts opposite of your heavy training cycle, to force your body to learn to repair and adapt on its own yet still ensure you're fully prepared on race day.

     And it's not just NSAIDs, or icing to reduce D.O.M.S. (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) & inflammation that can devalue your heavy workout efforts.  Even consuming high doses of anti-oxidants, especially in supplement form can have the same short-changing effect: They offset free-radical, oxidation damage post-workout so much so that your body never really has a chance to adapt to the exercise-induced stress using it's own resources.
Intense training forces your body to ADAPT & grow STRONGER! Don't undermine your natural repair process!
     Treating an injury or preparing your body to get back on the playing field the next day isn't what this is about at all.  In those cases of course icing, ice-baths, NSAIDS, massage, anti-oxidant supplements, should all be part of your acute-recovery arsenal: This about forcing your body to experience long term adaptation and to get stronger naturally.  Think about it: The whole point of exercising is to experience fatigue, cause micro-trauma, soreness and trigger growth - this is not the same thing as 'over-training' which is a chronic issue that also tanks your immune system.  If you workout and never get fatigued or wake-up sore the next day, then what is the point?  You're obviously not training hard enough to make any performance or muscle gains.

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