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Invisible Training

The importance of recovery
Posted by Nick Grantham

Many clients relish the opportunity to smash themselves in training and push their body to the limit. The problem is that whilst this is a trait that many fitness professionals love to see in their clients, it can also present a huge problem.

Your clients don’t always know when to take some time out to recover.

For a training programme to be effective we need to apply ‘stress’ to the body to bring about physiological changes and training adaptations. Your clients performance doesn’t improve from training alone, it improves due to the ability to RECOVER from training. If the workload is too great (applied too quickly, performed too often) with inadequate recovery to facilitate training adaptation the combat athlete can develop non-functional overreaching (NFO) which in turn subsequently results in chronic maladaptations and ultimately overtraining syndrome (OTS).

Understanding Fatigue

There are 5 different types of fatigue that can impact training and performance and not all of them are physical. Metabolic (Energy stores) fatigue results from high volume training and repeated workloads (aerobic/anaerobic conditioning), and multiple training sessions throughout day. Tissue Damage is another form of fatigue and can be caused by plyometrics, eccentric loading and contact situations (from lots of jumping activities or novel training interventions). Neural (peripheral nervous system) fatigue results from high intensity work such as resistance training for strength and power development, speed work, skill sessions and introduction of new training techniques. Psychological (CNS and emotional) fatigue comes about as a result of training monotony, lifestyle issues, and heavy periods of work/training. Environmental fatigue is often overlooked but don’t underestimate the impact of different environments (hot, cold), travel (local, national, international), time differences or working environments.

The key is to develop a comprehensive training programme that allows maximal physiological adaptations while reducing the risk of residual fatigue. So how can your clients train hard without falling apart? Do the simple things consistently. 

Invisible Training

Recovery strategies can be broadly divided into two categories; 1. Precovery – the interventions that you can put in place before training or competition and; 2. Recovery – the interventions that are most effective when implemented after training or competition.

It’s easy to get carried away with all the new ‘toys’ such as compression clothing or crytotherapy but at best, most of this ‘sexy stuff’ is just an attempt to shut the gate after the horse has bolted. Get your client thinking like a 24 hour athlete focusing on PRECOVERY strategies. Wearing the latest figure hugging pair of compression tights after training isn’t going to help if you’ve not taken care of the basics before training, such as passive and active recovery or nutrition and hydration. Think about it, there are 168 hours in the week and even if they are training every day (which they won’t be because you know that you need to have at least one recovery day!) the proportion of time available outside of training to screw all your hard training up is huge.

Stop thinking about recovery and start thinking about PRECOVERY.


Nutrition (refueling and rehydration) – The most important components for nutritional recovery are fluid and fuel replacement and whilst there are a vast array of pills and potions to pop, make sure they’ve nailed the basics first.

  1. Eat a little and often (4-5 times a day) – by grazing (eating every couple of hours), the body is provided with a constant stream of nutrients providing an optimal environment for achieving their nutritional goals.
  2. Drink more water (at least 2 litres a day and avoid drinks containing caffeine– by properly hydrating your body will be less fatigued, more alert and perform better. Your cleints pee should be nice and clear!
  3. Focus on consuming lean proteins throughout the day. Eating lean proteins will provide their body with the building blocks for growth and development.

Rest (Passive and Active) – Sleep is one of the most important forms of rest and provides time to adapt to the physical and mental demands of training. Poor sleep alters release of growth hormone and cortisol consistently poor sleeping patterns is one of the first signs of NFO and OFTS.

Other forms of passive rest include reading and listening to music – you can give your cleints permission to relax on the sofa for an hour! If they don’t fancy lounging around on the sofa then include some active recovery strategies such as walking, cross training and flexibility/mobility training. Research has shown that these are also beneficial to overall recovery.

Take Home Message

Recovery and regeneration is the limiting factor to performance, yet one of the most overlooked areas of physical preparation. If you run your car hard enough and long enough without looking after it, then eventually it will break down. The body is no different and in my experience your typical cleint will rarely have concise plans to recharge themselves, waiting instead until their body breaks down. Don’t forget the basics, it really is that simple. Eat well and get adequate rest…the bells and whistles come later.


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