“I don’t know doc, I feel like I just can’t recover like I used to.”
This is a statement I hear on a regular basis from the athletes I treat in my office. They’re staying sore longer, feeling fatigued throughout their day, and can’t quite make the progress they desire, not as they used to at least. Especially those approaching a vital tipping point in their lives where they’re not quite as young as they used to be, but certainly aren’t old yet.
There is a stigma about this type of situation where people will often think that the issue is they’re overtraining. In that scenario, they’ve worked too hard or too long and their body is fighting back. But did you know that while it is possible for elite athletes to reach this point, a much more common and more pressing issue is, under-recovering?
The human body is quite a fascinating machine. It has an amazing ability to adapt to the things that we throw at it. Whether it’s sickness, soreness, or something else entirely, the human being will find a way to adapt, and power through. While it is very possible for a select few to exceed this capacity it’s much more difficult than you might think.
The body adapts and overcomes to meet the challenges placed upon it. But a far easier task to accomplish is to work just hard enough to exceed your body’s ability to recover. In a sense, this could be considered overtraining, but it is far easier to correct than the real deal.
While there are many factors to consider when optimizing recovery, the one that I have found to be most often lacking is good sleep. Most of us have heard that we should be getting around 8 hours of sleep. But the why behind that statement is less often talked about.
Proper, healthy sleep is critical in our body’s ability to recover from the daily challenges we put it through, whether that’s from our workouts or just our every day lives. And it’s not only the duration of the sleep that counts but also the quality that needs to be improved.
Non-REM sleep, (also known as deep sleep or slow wave sleep) is most related to recovery for your body, while REM sleep is vital for recovering your brain. However, the daily life stressors, the challenges we face, the stimulus of electronic devices and our surroundings can keep our brain and body from reaping the benefits they deserve from quality sleep.
Make sleep a priority in your training regimen. Increasing the time and quality of your slumber in the days leading up to a competition or event can help improve your performance, keep you safe, and have a profound effect on your end results.
Here are a few great tips to help you improve your sleep quality:
You might also want to read this helpful article about F.lux.
Start by limiting your daily blue light exposure with blue light blocking glasses.