The season is in full swing.
You’re practicing hard.
You’re making weight a few days a week.
You’re doing extra running and dieting.
…And you feel like shit.
Ok, maybe you don’t. If that’s the case, this post isn’t for you.
But I’d venture to guess that if you’re in the middle of a hard wrestling season, you probably don’t feel as good as you did before it started.
Listen, I’m not here to tell you that you’re doing something wrong if you’re sore or tired. It’s just the nature of the beast.
But there are a number of things you could be doing to help minimize the after effects of your rigorous training schedule.
The implementation of these strategies should lead to an overall better feeling, less soreness, more energy, and ultimately better performances on the mat.
So let’s get into some of the things you should be doing to help maximize your recovery between workouts.
This is by far the most important thing you could be doing for recovery.
The more you sleep, the more testosterone you release.
Big deal, right?
Hey, ever wonder why so many athletes and average gym goers take steroids?
Cause testosterone works!
Sleeping for at least 8 hours a night should be your goal.
I know it’s can be tough sometimes with how busy you probably are. But work on managing your time better and do your best to make sleep a priority.
Don’t think you need 8 hours?
Check this out. My wife, Laura, is one of those people who thinks she can get away with 5-6 hours of sleep a night. And that’s what she was getting (or less) until recently.
She decided to stop teaching 6am classes at our gym.
What’s happened since?
Just in the past couple of weeks she’s lost over 4 pounds.
Her diet is the same.
Her exercise volume is the same.
The only thing that changed is that she started getting more sleep.
So not only will it benefit you from a recovery standpoint, but you may also end up losing, or at least better maintaining your weight.
Listen, I know staying up late and texting and spending time on social media is important.
I used to do the same thing with Instant Messenger back in High School.
And as I sit here writing this, I can’t clearly recall any of the conversations I had on those nights.
However, I can still vividly recall lots of wrestling matches (both good and bad).
So turn off your computer, put your phone on silent, and get to bed.
Here’s some breaking news!!
If you eat like shit you’re going to feel like shit.
In all honesty, that may not make sense to someone who’s reading this who eats crap food regularly.
Back when I was 205lbs of lumbering wannabe powerlifter I ate fast food every day. And, as you may have guessed, I didn’t feel great.
But I was blind to my ways. I just thought the way I felt was normal.
However, now that I’ve gotten my diet under control the difference is amazing.
I recover better.
I feel better.
I have more energy.
To get started on cleaning up your diet check out- Wrestling Nutrition.
This was suggested in an email by a reader and I thought it’d be valuable to add.
First of all, like I’ve said before, supplements are just that- a means to supplement an already well thought out nutrition plan.
You can’t eat like shit and drink a protein shake a day and think that all your strength, power, and recovery issues will be solved.
However, if you’re looking for a few supplements that will help enhance your current diet, here are my suggestions.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the few small meals you’re eating a day or two before weigh ins are probably not meeting your body’s micronutrient needs.
Therefore, a great place to start is by adding a multivitamin.
However, because of a little thing called “bioavailability” (how much is actually digested and absorbed) not just any will do.
With a quick Google search I was able to find this site.
It has a nice, interactive chart of 100 tested brands. Rankings are according to bioavailability, potency level, etc.
If you currently take a multivitamin but are suspicious on how much your body is actually digesting and utilizing, I highly suggest you check out that site.
2. Protein Powder
Protein is an important macronutrient.
It’s not going to make you an unstoppable monster. However, there’s a lot of reputable research that suggests you will recover better by supplementing with it and/or increasing your intake of it through whole foods.
If you haven’t yet, read my post on my near liver failure. It may make you realize the benefit of using a protein powder with very few, basic ingredients that you can actually pronounce.
This is kind of a sub-category because Glutamine is an amino acid found in protein.
I used it regularly throughout my senior year in High School and into College. I found that it really helped with my ability to recover from workouts. I didn’t feel totally drained at weigh ins and just felt better in general.
I never bought a special delivery system or fancy flavor.
I just stuck with the plain, white, 100% Glutamine powder and mixed it with Gatorade or Crystal Lite. It seemed to workout fine for me.
About 10 grams after a workout should be sufficient. In fact, mixing that with a 20oz Gatorade makes for a nice post-workout drink to help start up the recovery process.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) is another sub-category. The 3 amino acids that make up BCAAs are all found in any complete protein.
I’ve used BCAAs before, but not nearly as consistently as Glutamine.
However, I read quite a bit of positive research on their supplementation back in college and definitely think they’re worth looking into.
Here’s a quick snippet I grabbed from this site:
BCAAs have been proven in many studies to be a potent performance enhancer, and as previously mentioned, BCAAs make a great energy source for working muscles because of their unique metabolism. This can have a positive impact on performance. Not only can BCAAs be used as energy themselves but they also enhance fat oxidation in glycogen depleted subjects. This allows individuals to train harder for longer without fatigue due to the higher energy demands being met. This goes for both high intensity training as well as endurance training.
Another way that BCAAs can enhance performance is through their ability to spare glycogen during training. Found as stored carbohydrates within muscle tissue and the liver, glycogen is the favored fuel source for working muscles engaged in high intensity exercise. This makes glycogen availability and preservation vitally important if you wish to continue to train hard for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that by ingesting BCAAs before and during training glycogen levels can be spared by 25%. It is thought that the ingestion of BCAAs boosts blood alanine levels which gets converted to glucose in the liver and then sent back to working muscle to be used as fuel. This glycogen sparing effect of BCAAs will not only allow for longer more intense training sessions but also allows for faster recovery leading to a better workout tomorrow.
…I always err on the side of caution when reading about supplements on a site that sells supplements. However, even though there isn’t any research cited at the bottom of the page, all of the benefits detailed seem to match up to results of studies I’ve read in the past.
Anyway, as far as dosing goes, I’d go with the “don’t over-complicate it” methodology. Just add 5-10 grams of BCAAs to 5-10 grams of Glutamine into a Gatorade or other carb beverage after practice or a lift.
Again, no need for a fancy delivery system here. Just straight BCAA powder will work just fine.
One of the reasons I’m such a huge proponent of “bare bones” powders is because you know what you’re getting.
First of all, from a health standpoint, it’s nice to know specifically what you’re putting in your body.
But, from a drug testing standpoint, it’s equally nice to know that what you’re putting in your body is not something you’ll test positive for in the future.
Here’s a link to a list of the NCAA Banned Drug List.
Whether you’re a current or aspiring NCAA Athlete, getting in the habit of knowing what’s banned and whether or not your supplements contain any of the banned substances is going to save you a lot of potential trouble.
So check that list out sooner rather than later and be as educated on the matter as possible.
That way when the NCAA asks for a urine sample your heart rate won’t skyrocket.
This can be through a massage therapist, teammate, or by yourself.
Here are a few posts I’ve written on the benefits of massage and some tools you can use:
While these tools are great, really almost anything solid can be used to create pressure on a knot.
For instance, at my gym we have lacrosse balls, roller hockey balls, and baseballs for “trigger point therapy.”
Another tool my wife and I use regularly is an Infrared Massager.
It does a great job of warming up tight muscles and makes getting knots out with other massage tools a lot easier.
Additionally, I highly recommend the Rumble Roller.
They are by far the best “roller” type product out there.
You can also check out the Theracane. I’ve never used one, but one of my training partners at the Jiu-Jitsu school I go to is a big advocate of it. From the looks of it, it appears to be pretty versatile.
If you don’t have access to a Theracane, by the looks of it, I’d imagine laying on some sort of a hard ball would do the trick. But like I said above, I’ve never used one so I can’t attest to how much more beneficial it can be compared to the ball option.
Don’t want to purchase anything, try this idea from Joe Hashey:
…I know this is a lot of info.
The basic idea is that massage is a must if you’re looking to maximize your recovery.
4. Mobility Work
Although I haven’t done it in a while, I’m a big fan of Hot Yoga for recovery.
In fact, I even convinced one of the wrestlers I’ve trained for a few years to start. He’s gone fairly consistently throughout the season and has given me a lot of positive feedback.
Doing mobility work is a great way to promote recovery without adding much, if any stress to the body. By the way, if there are any hardcore Yogies reading this, I hope I’m not offending you by simplifying your practice as just a means for mobility/flexibility work.
However, you want to avoid stretching, which has been shown to actually discourage blood flow. Additionally, stretching and other passive means of recovery has been shown in research to have no positive effect on the relief of sore muscles.
So if you’re looking to relieve muscle soreness, look to increase blood flow. This leads me to my next suggestion…
5. Light Exercise
It may seem counter-intuitive at first (you’re looking to recover from exercise by doing more exercise?!), but it works wonders.
Last week one of my MMA training sessions consisted of the following- close to 1 hour and 45 minutes of hard live training and about 1 hour and 15 minutes of instruction.
Needless to say, the next day I was feeling a little fatigued. As a result, I was dreading having to do anything physical that day.
Rather then decide to take the day off, I opted to start my lifting session by extending the warm-up.
I thought that if I started to feel good, then I could pick up the intensity.
Sure enough, with a little extra time to get moving, I ended up feeling great and energized for both my lifting session and my pad work session a few hours later.
And to think, half an hour before I started to get moving, I thought I should have taken a day off.
This doesn’t need to be complicated.
It also doesn’t need to turn into a full blown workout.
Simply find the time to do 15-20 minutes of light exercise.
Anything works here, but try to make it as low impact as possible.
Swimming is probably my favorite thing to do when I’m looking for a light, relaxing workout.
6. See a Chiropractor
This isn’t as general as the other tips. And I definitely don’t suggest being creative (like in the Massage section) and having your teammates find ways to crack your back.
Chiropractic care is great for recovery. In fact, they don’t just save backs. Check out a post I wrote about how one fixed my shoulder pain.
Laura has started to see a DC every 6 weeks and has seen her recovery improve.
On top of that, there’s a lot of guys who come to my gym who swear by Chiropractors.
Additionally, one of the Chiropractors I saw was certified in Active Release Techniques. In a matter of 4 sessions he eliminated groin pain that I had for months. The best part- it hasn’t returned in over 2 years.
…Quick story- a couple years ago I had such tremendous pain in my left Adductor area. I was unable to run, hold someone in my guard, or do basically any kind of grappling/wrestling without intense pain.
I had heard about ART before and decided to look into it. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. I had to drive to Ithaca (close to an hour away from Binghamton) to get treated, but it was well worth it.
So if you’re experiencing an injury to a muscle that’s negatively affecting your performance, I highly recommended finding a provider.
And, if you’re experiencing nagging pain, or a certain area of your body just doesn’t seem to recover, consider seeing a Chiropractor.
8. Take A Bath
I’ve already written about the benefits of Epsom Salt baths for cutting weight (Cutting Weight For Wrestling), but they’re also great for recovery.
For a better idea of how they help you, here’s a snippet from the Saltworks.us website:
Epsom salt, named for a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, is not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.
Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin, making Epsom salt baths an easy and ideal way to enjoy the amazing health benefits.
Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function and helping to prevent artery hardening. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins and help ease migraine headaches.
…There are a number of other benefits detailed on the site, but those are the most pertinent to wrestlers who are beat up from hard training.
Laura takes Epsom Salt baths regularly. She probably does at least 5 a week and has really noticed an improvement in her recovery.
In addition, Jim Wendler, creator of the famous 5/3/1 strength system just recently put up a new article on T-Nation where he reveals that he’s been regularly taking Epsom Salt baths on a nearly daily basis.
9. Hot/Cold Contrast
While I do these to some extent, it’s not really well thought out. I basically take a cold-ish shower for a few minutes after using a Hot Tub or Sauna for 20-25 minutes.
However, I did find a helpful blog that reviews a few research studies (click here).
Here’s are some of the conclusions of this method:
One study showed significant fluctuations in blood flow during a 20min contrast therapy session, where changing from hot to cold showed decreases in blood flow and vice versa when going from cold to heat. Additionally, when looking at blood marker changes, contrast therapy was shown to reduce creatine kinase (a marker of inflammation) and blood lactate concentration at a similar rate as active recovery, when compared to passive recovery following training. These findings may suggest that contrast therapy has a potential benefit to athletic recovery.
Finally, following exercise, contrast therapy was shown to decrease girth measurements, increase joint range of motion, and improve perceptions of soreness.
…Basically the idea is to promote blood flow to and from the muscles by adjusting the water temperature from hot to cold. With the increase in blood flow there will be more oxygen and nutrients available to the muscles. In addition, waste products will be removed at a faster rate. Ultimately, this will help them to rebuild/repair more efficiently.
It’s the same effect you’d be looking to achieve if you were doing some form of light exercise. Only instead of being active, you’re letting an external stimulus do it for you.
There isn’t an exact protocol (from what I can find) that seems to indicate it’s more effective than others. So try different methods and see what works best for you.
Ultimately the goal after is to feel refreshed, less fatigued, and have less overall soreness. So if you’re able to achieve this, then mission accomplished.
Alright, that’s a lot of information. Typically that’s something I try to avoid.
I’m starting to realize that too much information leads to confusion, and, as a result, no action is taken.
So, rather than over-complicate things, here’s what I suggest…
Just pick one of the suggestions above and start to implement it on a regular basis.
In a few weeks if you notice that you’re recovering better, re-visit this post and give some thought to implementing a second means of recovery.
Eventually things will become pretty automatic and you’ll make time for recovery especially as you see the benefits that it’s having on your performance.
Remember- it’s easy to feel banged up in the middle of the season.
But if you start putting forth a serious effort into your recovery, I’m confident you’ll feel a lot better and your performance will show it.