At LIVESTRONG.com we strive to bring our audience the best information available from the smartest people in health and fitness. With the Olympic Games in full swing, we asked Brent Callaway, the International Performance Director for Athletes' Performance, how the competitors we see on TV manage to come back from workout after grueling workout, and always perform at their top level. Here’s what he told us.
At Athletes’ Performance, we’ve trained many of the world’s top athletes, including a number competing for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
-Brent Callaway, Athletes’ Performance
The same system of recovery used by elite athletes to rebound from tough workouts and the stresses of life can keep you injury free, mentally sharp, and ready to attack the day.
Here are four tips to help you optimize your recovery.
Protect Your Posture
Whether you’re an Olympian, an avid runner, a working professional or a parent, chances are you have repetitive movements in your life. Sitting at a desk, in a car, on a bike, or on a plane can have a long-term impact on your posture and how you feel and perform each day.
Sitting for long periods causes the hip flexors to shorten, causing a chain reaction that tilts the pelvis forward and adds stress to the lumbar spine. Without correction, this can cause back pain and impair running mechanics, as athletes cannot get proper knee lift with full extension in the opposite leg.
To recover from the stresses of daily sitting, combine self-massage with stretching to lengthen the hip flexors and improve your posture. To recover like a true Olympian, place a foam roller under your hip as pictured here, and roll for three to four minutes on each side. Follow the self-massage with a quick hip flexor stretch on each side and you’ll be well on your way to improved posture and healthier hips.
Sleep it off
Whether you travel a lot on business or rarely leave home, getting proper sleep can be a challenge. Sleep not only impacts how we feel; it also impacts split-second decision making, especially as we age, and a lack of sleep suppresses the immune system. Which is why sleep is a key component of your recovery routine, whether at home or on the road.
To create an effective sleep routine, strive for 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep per night. Don’t think it’s possible? Try one week with the following sleep elements:
-Turn off the television and other electronics in the bedroom
-Close the curtains to decrease light coming into the room
-Eliminate caffeinated beverages after 6 p.m.
-Take three to five deep breaths prior to getting into bed to help your body transition into relaxation mode
-Get in bed by 10 p.m. - it can be done! - and rise at the same time each morning
By sleeping smarter, your body and your mind will function at a high level. Incorporate effective sleep strategies into your recovery routine whether at home or on the road.
For Olympians, food is fuel, and for the rest of us, it should be no different. When you finish a workout, the gas tank is on empty, so it’s imperative that you recover effectively, ideally within a half hour of training.
At Athletes’ Performance, we provide customized post-workout shakes for each athlete, but you can create your own post-workout fuel by combining a fiber-rich carbohydrate to refuel, a lean protein source to rebuild, and water to hydrate.
Try mixing protein powder with frozen strawberries and low-fat chocolate milk, or adding vanilla whey protein to orange juice to refuel after training sessions. Besides feeling better, you’ll also repair your muscles and refuel effectively for your next workout.
Make Recovery a Ritual
The world’s top athletes don’t consider massage, stretching, adequate sleep, or post-workout nutrition “optional.” Such activities are part of the fabric of their days and how they approach performance.
In the same way, everyone should aim for consistency in recovery, even if you start simple. For example, take the time today to include one of the following recovery rituals into your daily routine in addition to the broader strategies listed above. You’ll be surprised how little time it takes and how much impact it can have:
-Keep a tennis ball under your desk. Instead of sitting all day with no movement, roll the ball under the arches of your feet during calls. Press a tennis ball into your chest and shoulder areas to roll away tension.
-Devote ten minutes at your desk every day to taking a few deep breaths and relaxing. This simple act will help you feel calm, focused, and refreshed.
-Remove one distraction from your bedtime routine, whether it’s the phone, laptop, TV, or clock radio.
Scheduling recovery in your day makes your health and well-being a priority and can decrease stress levels while reducing aches and pains. These simple changes can make a huge impact. So even if you’re not competing in London for the 2012 Games, incorporating these strategies into your day-to-day life will help you recover like an Olympian.