Not long ago, I started tracking everything.
Barbell volume, water intake, macros, micros, sets, reps, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, sleep, and the list goes on…
I quickly came to the conclusion that tracking everything helped nothing.
You read that correctly. It helped nothing.
Tracking is simply awareness.
Knowing your resting heart rate gives you some insight into your fitness level, but not much.
And if you cannot manipulate/change anything you are tracking…what’s the point??
I’ll say it this way…
Personal health and fitness data that CANNOT be manipulated is, at best, interesting trivia and, at worst, a complete waste of your time!!
Personal health and fitness data that CAN be manipulated is a massive performance advantage.
Once I realized HOW to manipulate my health and fitness data I started to see some massive performance-metric improvements, like:
- I increased my heart rate variability by 57%…
- I dropped my resting heart rate 10 beats per minute…
- I tripled the amount of deep sleep I get on a nightly basis…
*Note: Each one of those metrics could be a 5,000-word article by itself. So for our purposes, in this article, just know they are important. I will link to why and studies at the end of the article.
Know this: Improvement in those metrics means…I run faster, I lift more weight, my benchmark workout results are hitting numbers and times I never thought I’d see, my energy levels are higher, and I am not getting injured.
And it’s all because of ONE game I started playing.
THE LEAD DOMINO: RECOVERY
As you know, one small action can lead to a series of actions, or a chain reaction, which can produce a lot of momentum, power, and energy.
But it goes further than a simple chain reaction.
In 1983, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that dominos can do much more than knock down a domino of equal size. Actually, the force from one falling domino can topple a domino which is 50% larger.
To put that in perspective, starting a chain reaction with a two-inch domino hitting one 50% larger each time; by the 18th domino you are looking at a domino close to the size of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, number 23 would be taller than the Eiffel Tower, number 31 would be 3,000 feet taller than Mount Everest and by number 57 would almost be at the distance from the earth to the moon.
What is your lead domino?
I start each day with one question:
What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
I apply this question to my relationships, my business, and my fitness.
- In my relationships…when I focus on being extremely present and engaged, my relationships are better.
- In my business…when I relentlessly focus on my athletes, their results, and their experience; my business grows.
But in fitness, it takes a little bit longer to find that ONE thing…
And to be honest, I think there is a hierarchy:
First, your ONE thing is consistency.
I always say the program that will work best is the one that you can stick to… but what happens after you are consistent as possible…? Or you can stick to anything…?
So… after you are consistent, your ONE thing will be programming.
My advice above becomes null and void if you are a very consistent athlete. Because the program or programming start to REALLY matter over a long enough timeline.
And if you ARE a super-consistent athlete and you are still just doing random workouts each day…do yourself a favor: STOP DOING THAT!! Get some solid programming and watch your results surpass what you thought was possible.
So what happens if you are consistent and you have really good programming…??
Your ONE thing becomes recovery.
If your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Nah, it’s nutrition” or “no, it’s this or that” I can probably draw a line to any suggestion you have to your recovery.
That’s how focusing on the lead domino works.
- If I were to only focus on hydration, yes, it would help my recovery but I’d be lacking proper nutrition.
- If I only focused on nutrition, that would get me pretty far, but I would be lacking mobility and injury prevention.
If I ONLY focus on RECOVERY…it knocks down all the other dominos to set me up for the greatest success.
So what is recovery??
WHAT IS RECOVERY??
Most people incorrectly think their training, sleep, nutrition, etc. is ONLY good for them.
As in the picture above, most believe that you are filling up your tank by getting in a good workout, eating enough calories, and doing all the things you should do.
I hate to break it to you…
That’s not how it works.
It’s more like this:
Any stressor, to include training, is emptying that tank.
So yes, physical training can be bad for you… IF it is not countered with proper recovery.
Don’t believe me?
Go hit a hard training cycle; grossly under eat, avoid micronutrients, drink very little water, sleep as little as you can, drink three beers per night, never see the sun and see what happens…
Hopefully, I am not hitting too close to home with that example 🙂
Now, the good (and kinda bad) thing is that your body is an AMAZING adaptation machine. You can run on for a long time never focusing on recovery.
Your body will keep adapting to the minimum standards your provide…till eventually, it won’t.
This is where you get sick, broken, or dead.
Or, in a less dramatic fashion, you’ll never see the result you want, you’ll never hit your potential, and you will never know what you were capable of…
And you’ll probably just blame it on genetics (that’s easy, right?).
So back to our question.
What is recovery?
Recovery is the action or process of getting back to normal.
You and I do A LOT of stuff every day that takes us away from normal, like:
- Lack of Sleep…
- Hard Training…
The list goes on…
It’s our job to counterbalance our life and training with recovery.
Recovery is NOT…one single thing, one fizzy drink, or something you periodically do.
Recovery is a PROCESS, a culmination of habits, and must be done daily.
The very idea of recovery is exhausting… The list of “what to do”, “could do”, and “should do” is endless…
That’s why we invented to RECOVERY GAME.
After speaking to 100’s of our athletes, I realized most of them were under-recovering. And telling them to “recover more” is pretty vague… And giving them a list of 15 things to do each day, well, will never get done.
So I gave all of our athletes ONE thing to do.
Actually, one thing to PLAY.
The Recovery Game.
RECOVERY GAME: HOW TO PLAY
First, I have to throw out a few disclaimers.
The purpose of the game IS…
- Help you Build Habits that Improve Performance, Enhance Results, and Make You a Better Human!
The purpose of the game IS NOT…
- To add stress to your life.
- To become an obsession.
- The be all end all of recovery.
The premise of the recovery game is simple.
- You lose points for certain activities.
- And you gain points with certain activities.
- To win, you must score 0, or greater
- Negative Points Carryover Each Day, but Not Each Week
- Positive Points Never Carryover
Remember, this is not the definitive recovery game. But it is a great start.
You could have a REALLY stressful day at work or home, a sunburn, or a hundred other factors that are keeping your body from full recovery. And we can’t list them all.
And yes, training is “negative” since it is a stressor. However, it is your body’s adaptation to that stressor that gives you results in physical fitness. How well you adapt to that stressor is, in part, how well you can recover or provide the raw materials needed for adaptation and recovery.
Now, let’s talk about each category a little more.
- More (or better) Sleep – It’s more or BETTER. If you look at all the sleep research, a great blanket statement is “get 7-8 hours of sleep” and this is true for a lot of people. However, some people have proven they can operate on less than 7 and still be optimal. If that’s you, I challenge you to track how much DEEP sleep you are getting. If it’s not a lot, then that’s where you need to start getting better.
- Adequate Hydration – We challenge all of our athletes to get at least 50% of their body weight in ounces of water each day; i.e. 180 lb male should get at least 90 ounces of water per day with our training. And I mean water. I am not counting your coffee, beer or anything else. If I was, then I would have put a higher amount of liquid as your goal.
- Clean Nutrition / Supplementation – Overall, eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and protein. I don’t really care how or what you eat, but your diet and supplementation should be reducing/avoiding inflammation as much as possible. Each person has a different inflammatory response to different foods; but good places to start EAT A LOT OF VEGGIES, turmeric can be used as a natural anti-inflammatory, etc.
- Warm-up/Cool-down – I like to tell my athletes that your warm-up and cooldown have a lot more to do with tomorrow’s performance than it does today’s performance. All we need you to do is get the blood moving before and after workouts. Blood running through your body improves recovery, removes waste, and helps you prevent injury. Don’t over complicate it.
- Aerobic Work – Aerobic work is beneficial for the same reasons above. However, additional aerobic work can be as simple as walking the dog or playing outside with your kids. If you can improve your aerobic engine then you improve the overall efficiency of your body. Your heart, lungs, and circulatory system will function better and improve recovery. Getting more aerobic is often overlooked in recovery.
- Wildcard – Now, I put the wildcard in here for all that “other stuff”. If you do a 10-15 min mobility session each night, use contrast water therapy, get a massage, or go to a chiropractor those will all count as a point. Don’t cheat yourself thinking the little things are going to get you a full point. Wildcard activities should take more than 10 minutes and could be up to an hour in length. A 60-second cold shower doesn’t count here…
So are you ready to play?
How To Start Playing the Game
If you aren’t one of our athletes, you can use a piece of scrap paper, jot down your +’s and -’s in a note on your phone, or just keep a mental note.
Pretty simple stuff. Before we implemented this game with all of our athletes, I would just use Apple notes or write it in my notebook.
If you are one of our athletes, it’s REALLY easy. Just use the app. At the end of each workout, we have already predetermined how many recovery points you will need to get based on how vigorous the training sessions that were programmed.
Here’s what that looks like:
Enter your points into the app as you go through your day and recover well!
On the research and a parting shot…
I’ve provided a few links below to some research, further reading, and data related to recovery methods and efficacy.
You can read it all, or play the recovery game and rest assured…I did read it all.
At this point, however, I am far less interested in outside research and studies and far MORE interested in how this will benefit our athletes.
We have over 2 years worth of data on RHR, sleep, etc. as well as some subjective measures on well over 1,000 athletes. Simple questions we’ve been asking every athlete who trains with us, every single week.
Initially, the experiment for the recovery game was a n=1 situation; i.e. just me. That number grew to a few other EO3 coaches and athletes who have, and are still, providing weekly recovery metrics to include HRV, RHR, Sleep, etc.
So far the recovery game is looking very promising. As it should since it is based on very simple and foundational recovery principles.
But you want to know what’s really cool?
This year the recovery game will be more like a n=1,000 experiment. Which will be larger than any study I could link to, have read, or could find as far as fitness and recovery are related.
I’ll let that sink in for a minute…
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again.
We are changing the game at End of Three Fitness!
Want to join us?? Get started today!
- Dahlquist, Dylan T., et al. “Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recovery.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4539891/.
- Barnes, M J. “Alcohol: impact on sports performance and recovery in male athletes.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24748461.
- Beck, Kathryn L, et al. “Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery.” Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Dove Medical Press, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540168/.
- Broatch, J R, et al. “Postexercise cold water immersion benefits are not greater than the placebo effect.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24674975.
- Davis, J M, et al. “Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-Induced muscle damage.” American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17332159.
- Hohenauer, Erich, et al. “The Effect of Post-Exercise Cryotherapy on Recovery Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586380/.
- Negro, M, et al. “Branched-Chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721.
- Nielsen, F H, and H C Lukaski. “Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise.” Magnesium research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17172008.
- Pournot, H, et al. “Short term effects of various water immersions on recovery from exhaustive intermittent exercise.” European journal of applied physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21132438.
- S, Ahmaidi, et al. “Laboratoire de Physiologie des Interactions, Hôpital Arnaud de Villeneuve, Montpellier, France.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise, europepmc.org/abstract/med/8778550.
- Vella, Luke D., and David Cameron-Smith. “Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients, MDPI, Aug. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257708/.
- Versey, N G, et al. “Water immersion recovery for athletes: effect on exercise performance and practical recommendations.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23743793.