How To Get Your Recovery Day Right
A recovery day is a secret weapon for any athlete, and it’s true for every woman (or man) flipping 50, too. You may have heard me say as I quote Joe Friel, “Exercise provides the opportunity for fitness.” Fitness occurs during quality recovery days. So read on for ways to do yours like a boss.
P.S. I know oh, so well that after a tough workout recovery matters. I was wide awakened every 25-30 minutes last night from noise there was no escape from in my hotel room. And following a good workout – not crazy- I’m unreasonably sore. It’s not really justified based on the workout. That’s what lack of recovery does… costs you fitness, because sister, soreness does not equal fitness. It means damage.
The goal of recovery day activity is to increase circulation and reduce overall stress. It’s not about achieving a heart rate, distance, or other performance goal. So low impact lower intensity activities outdoors are ideal. During brutal winter conditions hit a yoga or Pilates class. My Monday recovery day almost always includes a longer yoga session than I have time for other days of the week.
Active recovery always wins over passive recovery due to the circulation benefits. These activities are great for getting you out and moving without impact or stress on the body. Keep them light and fun.
Give as much importance to rest & recovery days as I do the intensity that needs to happen on workout days. If you haven’t learned to rest well, it could be your missing link. [After 50 the need for recovery time increases for most adults, so if you’re not seeing results, skip the more workouts mentality and try another light or moderate day in between your harder workouts.]
Active Recovery Options I use:
- Stand Up Paddle
Passive Recovery Day Options
The rest of this post is dedicated to the passive things you can do to enhance that active recovery you do. They’re things you may be doing, but don’t give enough credit to, or things you can start doing without much effort (in fact some of them are yummy – I’ll write you a note). Massage anyone?
I use my infrared sauna 30-40 minutes as many days a week as I can. A day off always makes it easier because there’s a little more time. Whether you sweat during a workout or not, an infrared sauna will have you sweating and detoxing. [By the way, not sweating is often a sign you’re dehydrated.]
In addition to recovery, so many good things happen in there. It’s a big part of cellulite success thanks to collagen regeneration. It supports improved skin (may not help eczema, however) tone, wound healing, and releases toxins.
Take in more fluids before and after since both recovery and the increased sweating increase your need for fluids.
In the home I’m renting I didn’t want to set up and move a large unit so I got a personal solo sauna.I ended up loving that it’s lie down. I usually end up drifting off for a power nap and even though I use mine most often late in the day before dinner it also helps me sleep like a rock too.
Sauna can be a great way to feel like you’ve got that sweat on if you’re someone who just loves to exercise and has a hard time taking a day off. Know that there is a BIG difference between infrared sauna and those dry heat saunas that may be at your gym. You want the benefits of infrared light heating you from the inside out. Those that get your skin hot on the outside when you pour water over coals don’t have the same benefit.
Massage or Foam Rolling
The more regularly you can get a massage the better. If you’ve been skimping on self care and you’re extremely tight, sore, full of tension and stress, consider investing in a massage a week for a month then taper off to once a month. You’ll promote better performance and enhance your form. Then the better you manage regular stretching and foam rolling between workouts the less often you’ll need massage (though you may still enjoy it). Consistent more frequent sessions are better than a 90-minute massage on rare occasions.
If regular massage is out of the financial or time budget, start DIY massage with a foam roller, tennis balls, and other tools that help you care for muscles. It will help you perform better by enhancing better alignment and speed your recovery after workouts (or a tough day of sitting).
Foam Rolling for Recovery Day:
- Upper back
- IT band
- Hip Flexors & Quads
I’m both doing massage and rolling less lately, in favor of Percussive Therapy. For the cost of about 5 or fewer massages and you and everyone in your family can use it.
I’d love a weekly massage personally, but it’s not going to happen as much due to time as anything. With my Theragun I “need”a massage a lot less often.
I started using the Theragun last November and it too supports reduction in appearance of cellulite (So much it’s a part of STRONGER II), speeds recovery, and reduces tension or boosts performance depending on how you use it.
It’s light, easy to hold, and does all the work. You don’t use pressure you let it glide over the area. For post exercise or end of day tension release I use it for up to two minutes over an area. (For cellulite this is specifically after the cardio for the part affected in my STRONGER II program).
If I want to stimulate performance before a workout I use it for 30 seconds. I personally use it less pre-workout and most for recovery days or cellulite reduction (Yep, even Ironman athletes have it). I will use it before yoga if I’m a little sore from a prior workout. This takes a couple minutes.
Nap (or just rest)
Learn how to put your feet up(preferably without a screen in front of you). Shut your eyes or not. Sure sign you need to prioritize sleep is if you lie down with a book (no screens) and only make it through a page and a half or less before your eyes get heavy. If you’ve been to a movie theater recently and desperately want to sleep you definitely need to catch up on Zzzs.
Epsom Salt bath
Magnesium will be absorbed across your skin on an as-needed basis. Most of us are magnesium deficient and if you have headaches/migraines, constipation, muscle cramps, or you’re metabolism is sluggish you may need more. It’s always best to test, don’t guess. Before you get results though, soak and let your body take in what it needs. You’ll sleep better after, further aiding recovery.
Don’t make the mistake of cutting way back on recovery days. You have the same body and same muscle on recovery days. You’re both recovering (which includes getting adequate calories and protein) from past days or weeks and preparing for the next day.
True you don’t need the extra calories that may bookend your workouts on active days, but don’t skimp on the opportunity to fill your tank with good food that will help speed recovery. Protein is a must for the older adult. Research is pretty conclusive that you need more than your younger self to simulate the same amount. A 20-year old for instance can do just fine on 20 grams of protein after a workout, but a 70-year old needs about 40 gramsto benefit from the same level of muscle repair.
Good friends also thyroid and endocrine experts agree that smoothies are an excellent way to get adequate protein for those that struggle with this. You’re not going to pack as much nutrition into any other meal in minutes as you do in a smoothie. In fact, Dr. Alan Christianson, author of The Metabolism Reset Diet, also uses two smoothies a day to support thyroid, adrenals, and metabolism boost for women.
Focus on macronutrients and micronutrients both. Protein, fat, and carbohydrates from high quality sources are important. Fill your plate with veggies, adequate protein, high quality slow-absorbing carbs and healthy fat. Then use supplements to fill in the gaps. It’s hardly possible to eat the balanced diet consisting of over 20, 000 calories (nor a suggestion) it would take to get in even the recommended RDAs (a low estimate of our actual needs for optimal health) eating the healthiest diet possible (most of us fall short of that idealism).
One sure thing: you can eat more vegetables. Fill your plate with vegetables, add a healthy source of protein, high quality fat and if you’re still not satisfied enjoy more veggies. I’m often asked about powdered greens. Best case, you walk outside pull it from the ground, wash and eat it. Powdered greens are much better than not getting plant food in you at all.
Reluctant to supplement? I get it. Never in 35 years has anyone said to me, I just love to take supplements. The best way to know what you need is micronutrient testing.[need to test and want to order your own? I invite you to use Flipping50 to save on your order here]
Those days you don’t workout you have more time to do food prep. Having the right food available fast makes recovery easier every day. Food prep is a great opportunity to boost your fitness without a workout. I love to food prep really. I don’t like the thought of food prep. Having a refrigerator full of soups, salad items, roasted veggies and protein is awesome on a busy day!
I can create 2-3 main course items, soups, and a couple sides in an hour or less of prep. Then they’re baking, simmering, or in a crockpot cooking themselves and all that’s left is to cool them and put them away. Have the Whole Flip dvds? You already know what an hour in the kitchen can do!
I never start a meal from scratch in the evening. I just don’t want to spend 30-60 minutes every day doing that. My time is way too valuable, isn’t yours? What a waste and at a time when you’re most vulnerable – cortisol is dropping – it’s a terrible idea. I know wise women who know this but continually sabotage themselves by refusing to do an hour of meal prep on Sunday. Having ready-made soup or meat for tacos, or easy salmon to bake for 20 minutes while I do yoga saves fitness daily.
I know. This one is neither glamorous and nor worthy of the same list as massage. But really this too is a big part of cruising through workout days. I have a dozen options for “bottoms” that include shorts, tights, and skorts. But seriously, I love it when the red Nike shorts are clean. They’re my favorite. They’re probably 15 years old and bought by chance when my luggage did not show up at a conference so I had to go shopping at the expo (and a lingerie and make up store). Still. Love them. Workouts are better in them.
I’ve learned how to stop exposing myself to toxins I wear all day, sweat in and sleep on for 8 hours every night. Dryer sheets and laundry detergents deserve a second look when you think of it that way.
My go-to is Mygreenfills.I love this brand and company for so many reasons. First, I love the smell and clean products that are good for me and better for the environment. Second, they help women get off the streets – literally – and get empowered. That’s pretty cool. Flipping 50 is all about empowerment after all. I’m all over that company and what they stand for. If you haven’t tried them, you’ll feel good about it.
Is One Recovery Day Enough?
Research I quoted in You Still Got It, Girl! and published since point to the fact that as we age our need for recovery increases. That’s comparing you now to younger you. But your need still may be different than that of your same-age friends or spouse. Recovery need is individually unique.
In fact, recovery need can vary from 1 to 72 days. That’s incredible, right? But true, even among pre-50 athletes individual recovery needs varied that much after the same workout.
Don’t take it personally.
You say you could workout again tomorrow? That doesn’t mean you should. Chances are even if signs of recovery are there – you’re sleeping well, you’re not sore, you have plenty of energy, performance is improving – yet you’re not losing weight, and you’re not taking any days off… that’s the missing link.
Signs you need another recovery day:
- Your heart rate won’t elevate during workouts
- Your usual pace feels much harder
- Your usual distance takes longer
- You feel extremely out of breath during usual effort (and maybe just using stairs)
- You can’t do as many repetitions of your usual weights
- Ten minutes into a workout you don’t want to be there
- You could lie down and nap after a workout
- You’re sleep is messed up
- You’ve got a big appetite or cravings (especially for sugar)
- You’re injured or aches and pains are more frequent
- You can’t lose weight even though you’re “exercising all the time”
- You feel like you “can’t” take a day off or you won’t be able to relax
- You feel “flat” during workouts
- Your resting heart rate is elevated several mornings in a row
- Your digestion has changed (slower or faster)
Lack of quality sleep can impede recovery and be a sign of overtraining. If you already struggle with sleep quantity, quality or both, your recovery will take longer. If you notice your sleep changes for the worse as you increase workout volume or intensity, the best remedy is to increase recovery days as much as you increase your workouts.
Don’t blindly follow an online program and assume you are like every “average” person doing that program. You need to adjust based on the feedback your body gives you. A good start is choosing a program or trainer who specializes in women in midlife and beyond. Even then, having a coach to talk to about how to adjust is a good idea.
When You Struggle Taking a Recovery Day
If asked how hard your workout was, do you answer like this?
“I always work hard.”
You’re the most likely candidate to benefit from at least one recovery day. You don’t know what recovery day is potentially. You’re that “go hard or go home” exerciser. If you won’t do easy or moderate workouts you’ll do best with fewer workouts and more rest days.
Truth is, a perfect workout week has hard, easy, and moderate days.
If you never do easy or moderate intensity days, to compliment your hard days, your fitness (and potentially optimal weight, energy, and mood) will suffer.
Especially true if your brain is making dozens of decisions daily while you’re also working or handling responsibilities. You have to consider it all.
When Exercise Fails to Support a Weight Loss Goal
The first thing women often want to do is cut food and/or add exercise. That’s one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator. It’s what we’ve seen happen for decades and in part it’s contributed to this weight loss weight weight regain roller coaster that leaves a woman with more fat and less muscle.
That stress-inducing formula teaches your body to store fat. The better answer may be to temporarily replace your workout with a recovery day. When training women who want a better body, weight loss, or athletes, I use a system called periodization.
There are entire weeks of reduced training that make up recovery weeks. Often life inserts these in the way of family vacations or business trips. They keep you mentally and physically fresh. They’re perfect weeks to spend more time doing Stand Up Paddle Boarding or skiing, or reconnecting with family and friends.
The starting point for Flipping 50 programs that reset hormones is a light week of exercise. For women with adrenal fatigue rest weeks remain there for significantly longer. The idea of recovery days in your workout week is to keep you from every getting to adrenal fatigue in the first place.
It’s Not Over
Don’t make the mistake of thinking because your hot flashes or night sweats are minimal or non-existent, or that you’re over 60 you don’t have hormones do deal with anymore. The endocrine system plays a key part in your health, wellness, and fitness for the rest of your life. You’ll always have hormones that influence muscles or bones, sleep, stress, digestion and appetite.
Hormones influence your ability to store or to burn fat. They determine the energy you have and the quality of rest you enjoy. Hormone balancing exercise may be a new term because you’re Flipping 50 but it’s the secret to living longer stronger – at every age.
Embrace your recovery day.
How would you like to take a long weeked for recovery? The Flipping 50 2019 Retreat is scheduled for June 14, 15, and 16 (arrive the 13th to get a good night’s sleep before an epic- and challenging hike on the 14th!) You all move in so many ways, do a little chill time and learn how to recover between too! Yoga, stand up paddle boarding, spa time and water running will help you between the hikes, weights, and swim technique lessons. But you want to jump in! This month training gets dialed up and specific so you’re preparing to enjoy the challenge of a big hiking day! NOW is the time! Details here or the image!