Sometimes doing a little can help a lot.
Workouts! Raging wars of lactic acid lunacy. Man and iron pitted against each other in a bitter struggle to the death. Woman and steel locked in mortal combat. Train till you fail and then ask for more. Never quit, never surrender, never blink. Stand alone on the summit of chaos and stare grimly into the deep sucking maw of the abyss.
Or don’t, either way is good. Workouts do not have to take you to the point of hallucination and near death every session to be effective. In fact, I would argue that steady plodding beats gonzo annihilation most times. The problem with savage workouts is recovering from them afterwards. Even with plenty of rest, great nutrition and supplementation and a stress free life recovering from a tough session can take 3 solid days, more in some cases.
So where does that leave us guys? Maybe you have to fit in your training around work and family commitments. It could be that you don’t have the luxury of being able to eat quality food 6 times a day or afford a £250 a month supplement regime. You probably don’t use steroids, which push your recovery abilities into hyperdrive. Age plays an important factor in recovery. if you’re 97, like me, it takes longer to get over a hard training session, let alone injuries and illnesses. When I was younger I could train twice a day, thrive on 1 hours sleep a week and get all my nutritional requirements from cheese, alas now things take a little more organisation and consideration. What follows is a list (I love a good list), of what I do to get me to the next workout more or less intact.
- Eating right is important. The old adage you are what you eat is absolutely true. A balanced, varied and plentiful diet is vital to recovery. I try to eat 3 big meals a day (I’ve tried the whole 6 meals a day thing and it doesn’t work for me. I’m too much of a pig and 6 small meals just quickly became 6 huge meals a day which in turn became eating continuously – not good). If I’m being good each meal is; high protein, high fat, loads of veg/salad and lowish carbs. This works for me as the fat makes me feel full and keeps me away from carbs. I like carbs but they hate me.
- Supplements really do help. I don’t use steroids so I need all the accelerated recovery that good supps can provide. Protein powders, BCAAs, creatine, glutamine, arginine, beta alinine, citruline malate, caffeine, simple and complex carb powders and fish oils are all very useful. I wouldn’t take them all at the same time as it would be very expensive and possibly counter productive. Instead pick 2 or 3 and use them for 3-4 weeks then cycle them with the others.
- Have a great workout fuel intake protocol. Remember training makes you smaller and weaker, it’s recovery from training that makes you bigger and stronger. The food and supps you consume around your workout are the first line of defense against fatigue and over training. Training hard destroys your muscles and fries your CNS. It also causes the body to dump a whole bunch of cortisol into your system. Cortisol is the stress hormone and it can wreak havoc throughout your body. The list of problems that can arise with having cortisol levels too high is terrifying; memory loss, the inability to concentrate, having poor judgement, having a negative disposition, anxiety, constant worry, eating problems (too much or too little), sleeping problems (too much or too little), feelings of isolation, procrastination, substance abuse, nervous habits, moodiness, irritability, agitation, feeling overwhelmed, having a sense of loneliness, depression, aches and pains, bowel problems, nausea, dizziness, chest pains, palpitations, loss of sex drive and a suppressed immune system, Fuck. Now, I’m not saying that having a protein shake after doing some squats will solve all the worlds ills but stress is insidious and every measure should be brought to bear in attempting to combat it. Ensuring that you’ve nailed your pre and post workout nutrition will at least ensure that the body is able to physically heal and hopefully the feel good endorphins you get from a workout will sort your head out.
- Sleep is good. It’s in our sack-time that the body can really get stuck into the repair and rebuild process. It’s also when the brain sorts out all the junk it’s been bombarded with and tries to make sense of it all. Without sleep you can’t live, let alone recover from a brutal deadlift session. I have 3 small kids, 2 gyms and a rental property stuffed with 5 smelly students (actually not that smelly, but stereotypes do persist), I don’t think my wife and I have had 8 solid hours sleep in about 7 years. The consequence of which is I find it very easy to become over trained and unenthusiastic about training. What I find helps is if I can’t guarantee that I’m getting enough sleep I can at least ensure that the sleep I get is of high quality. I have a routine once I get home of relaxing on the sofa, sometimes watching TV but often not, talking with Zoe about our days and then having a shower. After my ablutions I’ll hit the sack and read for 15-30 mins. Then it’s lights out and oblivion. None of this is ground breaking or even remotely interesting to anyone. But it is a routine that is repeated pretty much every day and, as such, enforces a behavioural response – which in my case is snoring like a pig. Zoe is a lucky lady.
- Auto-regulation of your training intensity and duration. This takes a lot of practice to get right and I’m not entirely sure I’m there yet. Basically all it is is listening to your body and ramping up or scaling down the intensity on any given day. My problem is once I’m into the workout I usually feel indestructible, wind up doing way too much and finish up as a messy heap of misery on the floor, usually wrapped around one of the reception desk chairs. What I have been trying to do recently is planning my workout in advance with my sensible head on and then attempting to adhere to it once the red mist descends. Also I’ve found that finishing the workout at the point where I still want to do a bit more is hugely beneficial.
All of which pre-amble brings us to today’s workout, which was squats. I was feeling each one of my 102 years, all my muscles were sore, I was tired and definitely not in the mood for a leg session. Leg training, as well you know, is the big kid on the school playground. The one that wants to steal your sandwiches, beat you senseless and make you eat bugs. Leg training is a bully that will flush your head down the toilet unless you stand up to it, call it a wanker and kick it in the nuts. I would of been well within my rights not to train at all, and that would of been fine, but I did want to stare the bully down and give it a nipple tweak, just to show it I wasn’t scared.
This is where the auto-regulation comes into play – I decided that I would only do bench squats, keeping the reps to 3 or under and stop when I felt that the quality of my reps were beginning to suffer. As it turned out the weights kept going up and up until I peaked at 160kg for a pretty decent single. Once I hit my last rep the workout was over and I could start cramming in all the post workout foody goodness in.
In summery; train when you want to, an easy session every now and again is good for you, eat well, get lots of sleep if possible, really sort out your workout fuel intake protocol, try not to get stressed about the things you can’t control, learn to listen to your body and put things in perspective – missing a workout because you’re not in the mood doesn’t matter, there’s always Monday and a new week with which to re-join battle.
Yours, sharpening his axe,