Putting Recovery First
Over the last year or so I feel like I have learned a fair bit about training and my body and thought that it might be helpful if I share my thoughts. I have made some mistakes along the way and probably will continue to in the future but I think I am slowly starting to understand my body a bit better now. I thought I would outline some of the learnings in this post in the hope that readers can avoid these potential pitfalls.
Firstly, a massive thank you to Movewell for deciding to partner with me on my journey and help me develop aspects of my training. Movewell creates state-of-the-art recovery and pre-hab kit for training. They are also a B-corp company so all their equipment is sustainable and eco-friendly. There is a quick Q&A at the bottom of this with Henry Abrahams, one of the co-founders of Movewell where I ask him about the way he uses the products. As a top-class physio, he probably knows what he’s talking about…
I’m not going to go into how I use the equipment and I may do this in another blog, but something I do want to touch on (and why I have found recovery training so important) is to do with something called your adaptation energy. Basically, you only have so much energy you can use to adapt to a stimulus that you are putting through your body. You wouldn’t try to run a marathon after a couple of days of training. Your body simply would not be able to take it. You would just end up running yourself down. Or pushing your body into the exhaustion phase where you end up going backward as your body can’t adapt to the stimulus you are throwing at it. I have stolen a graph from Ross Edgley as I find he shows it best. Training stimulus volume is along the x-axis and how your body will adapt is up the y-axis.
I have definitely experienced this a few times over the last year of training. I have been trying to increase my strength and stamina but without doing any proper recovery. I wasn’t giving my body time to adapt and found myself getting ill or feeling slight niggles in my knees and ankles. This was largely because I wasn’t recovering well enough before I trained again - I was entering the exhaustion phase. I would then find myself getting ill and having to take some time off in order to properly recover. This meant I wasn’t improving as quickly as I could be if I was recovering correctly.
By being more in touch with how your body is feeling and properly recovering after training sessions - either through stretching, rolling, massage, or even a little recovery walk - helps the body properly adapt to the stimulus you are giving it. This also has a knock-on effect on how long the body needs to recover. If you can shorten that time, it means you can train harder sooner and therefore adapt quicker. That’s a huge win in my eyes.
I had always neglected this stuff in the past as I thought it didn’t really make much difference. I can tell you now, the difference it has made to being able to compete hard throughout an event or a hard training cycle has been invaluable. But maybe the bigger reason is that having a full range of motion without niggles, aches or pains makes me so much happier and much more likely to get up and do something. The last thing you want to do after a heavy leg session from the day before when your legs feel like a sack of potatoes is get up off the sofa. But when you are feeling loose and free, the friction to getting moving and doing something is so much smaller. The willpower needed is far less. So you can either focus on getting more willpower or have a quick roll. I know which one I’m picking!
Questions to Hen:
Where did the idea come from with the products - who are they for and why are they different from standard rehab kit?
We (MoveWell founders Will & Hen) are both physios working in sport and clinics dealing with musculoskeletal issues. We wanted to recreate some simple & effective rehab and recovery products that we regularly use and feel can be really effective but in an environmentally more positive way! We were getting fed up with plastic and latex bands and foam rollers and felt that there must be a better alternative. We feel we've managed to do this and are looking to continue to expand our range. Our products are for anyone who is looking to move well both physically and by choosing products made to a high environmental standard. You can read more about our mission here.
How do you, use them?
I use the Mat most regularly. We call it the 'Anywhere Mat' and I love the fact I can throw it down and create a warm-up or workout space wherever I go. I might do a couple of bits of Rolling, particularly with the Peanut but primarily I use the mat for bodyweight exercises and flows.
Obviously, athletes have specific areas they can focus on and are constantly trying to figure out what their bodies need, how can the everyday person use these?
Athletes are people and have many of the same issues that non-athletes have. The products are designed for anybody to use to help them move better.
How does rolling work?
In short the primary mechanism is neuro-modulation. This refers to a process called descending inhibition where a painful stimulus can elicit a desensitizing effect. This can be helpful when looking to get a stiff or sore area moving. We wrote a blog post about it which explains it in more detail and is well worth a read.
Whats more important, before, during or after?
Whenever you feel the most benefit. Or depending on the outcome you're trying to achieve. The best evidence for 'rolling' is reducing the perception of muscle soreness, so technically the answer is probably between sessions. For me in practice, I think some targeted rolling as a small part of a warm up routine can often be very useful.
If you were to only have one piece of rehab kit what would it be?