Recovery is an integral part of training for combat sports. No matter how hard you try, you will get hurt in the gym. The key is to recover quickly and bounce back in time for the next hard session. Here’s how. . .
IF YOU CAN’T RECOVER, YOU CAN’T TRAIN & IMPROVE
We’ve all had those weeks when our bodies are aching for days on end after a single hard session.
When you go back to the gym, you’re not able to give 100% because you’re still sore or your joints ache.
The bad news is that there’s no way to prevent soreness or accidents from happening.
The good news that is that on your end, you can do some things to help speed up recovery between each session. Here are some tips to keep your body in tip-top recovery form:
NUTRITION: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
What goes into your body will always show during your training sessions. The quality of your food matters as well as the quantity (caloric intake). If you eat a lot of processed foods or unbalanced, it won’t give you the type of sustaining energy you need. It also won’t help you recover. And if you do have a “clean diet” but aren’t eating enough calories, it’s easy to underperform as well.
There are many online calculators that give you a rough estimate on how much you should be eating a day. These calculators take factors such as age, gender and lifestyle into consideration. Many food tracking apps also help you track your macros (fats, carbs, protein) to see if you’re eating too much or too little of one particular macro. As a starting point, it’s a good idea to track what you normally eat for a week and make notes about how you feel. Then, look at the data – are you eating enough? Are you eating too much? Do you need to eat so your macros are more balanced?
If you feel like all is good on the nutrition front but you’re still not recovering as fast as you should be, you might consider this: dehydration. You can drink as much water as you want but if you’re not replenishing lost electrolytes back into your system, you’re not going to feel great at all. In fact, your electrolytes being out of wack, especially when you’re dehydrated, can make you feel like you have zero energy or power. If you work out a lot and sweat puddles during training, you may want to invest in some electrolytes. Nowadays, they have them in pill and powder form, or you can stick with good old coconut water.
SLEEP: NOTHING BEATS A GOOD NIGHT’S REST
Sleep is crucial for athletes because this is when your body repairs itself!
In the gym, you create small tears in the muscles. With food, you give your body energy to recover and keep moving. With sleep, your body actually fixes you up and makes you stronger. If you’re someone who likes to stay up until two in the morning and then depend on coffee to keep you awake, this could be why you’re not recovering well between training sessions.
Practice good sleep hygiene by staying away from light sources when you should be sleeping – this includes your phone.
ICE: STOP SWELLING BEFORE IT’S OUT OF CONTROL
If you accidentally kick an elbow during sparring and feel it throbbing, throw ice on it as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t get the opportunity to swell up, your recovery time will be much faster than if you just left it alone.
When in doubt, always refer back to the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
LIGHT TRAINING: DON’T BURN OUT
As much as you’d like to, it’s not always possible to perform your best during training. If you’ve been going at it for weeks and feel like you’re lethargic, go light in training. Better yet, take a day or two off.
Sometimes it’s not physical fatigue, rather that you’re overworking your central nervous system. Overworking your CNS gives you the feeling of being “burnt out,” which is very different from muscle fatigue or soreness.
While you may not be in control of many factors at the gym, you are in control with what you do with yourself and your body. There are preventative measures you can take to recover faster so you can go back into beast mode quickly. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
- Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.