Recovery for the General Population: Focus on the Basics
Rest and recovery: We know it’s important, so we find ourselves searching for the best recovery tricks and tools to make us less sore and feel more fresh and ready to train.
But instead of only focusing on tools to facilitate recovery, consider this concept instead:
If general population clients need highly complex recovery protocols, then they’re probably not following a program that’s appropriate for their needs.
Or as OPEX Fitness Founder James Fitzgerald wrote on social media: “Coach tip: stop searching for the next rehab/corrective exercise/pain based course. Create better personalized programs.”
Or the latest: Marijuana helps gym rats recover, says this article from The Wall Street Journal.
Fitzgerald’s response: “If you need (marijuana) to recover, maybe you need a better program that teaches you to express only what you possess.”
In short, general population clients should be able to walk in, “do physical expression and walk out,” Fitzgerald said in a Barbell Shrugged Podcast.
With this in mind, what do you do as a coach when a general population client approaches you because they’re concerned they don’t feel recovered?
The answer is fairly simple: help your clients set a foundation of great sleep, nutrition, stress management, hydration, and circadian rhythm.
OPEX Coaches call these the BLGs (basic lifestyle guidelines). You can learn the BLGs in this free course.
Back to the question: If a client approached concerned about their recovery, the first place to look would be at their training program, and whether anything needs to be tweaked or re-worked.
But after that, OPEX CCP coach Meg Cruz said she would turn her attention to sleep.
“That’s the number one performance factor that most people get wrong,” said Cruz, who works primarily with female military members.
Though her clients are higher level athletes than the general population, sleep needs to be a priority for everyone, she explained.
“‘I can function on four hours of sleep’ is something I’ve heard from my soldiers. ‘No you fucking can’t,’ is how I usually respond,” Cruz said. “I don’t know where this false sense of pride in functioning on no sleep comes from, but it’s incredibly detrimental. Prioritize sleep and you’ll see an enormous difference in recovery and overall cognition.”
The next place Cruz said she would look is the person’s nutrition.
“Primarily, (are they getting) sufficient protein levels to facilitate recovery based on their weight, body composition and training volume,” she said.
If you’re working with women, you might also want to consider their menstrual cycle, Cruz added.
“What types of training are occurring at what phases, and how is that training impacting their symptoms based on hormone levels,” she explained.
Finally, Cruz would take a look at the person’s stress levels. And while it can be challenging to change stress levels overnight, as a general rule Cruz said she prescribes things like mindfulness practices, or even cutting out negative relationships from their lives if it’s practical.
OPEX CCP Coach Abi Hammond takes a similar approach:
“Sleep hygiene and sleep quality and quantity—all factors around this, including bedtime routines, daily rhythm, day-to-day consistency with sleep habits—even down to things we sometimes forget about, like (whether) you sleep with a pet. (These are) little things that sneak up that can minimize or degrade the quality of our rest,” Hammond said.
Also like Cruz, Hammond looks to all things nutrition.
“How much are you eating? What are you eating? What state are you in while you’re eating? Eating clean food is great, but it’s our ability to properly digest and utilize is that matters,” she said. This can lead her to look into vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as hormone and stress levels.
She added: “As a coach, it’s (about) having the willingness to have deeper conversations, referring out when necessary…being willing to recognize what you don’t know, and a willingness to dig and learn.”
The Takeway: Get back to the basics, instead of looking for the fancy solutions.
“A cream of a gel won’t solve recovery problems,” Hammond explained.
Instead, focus on “the basics: sleep, smile, easy movement, chew (your) food, drink water, nutrient supplementation when necessary,” she said.
“Small changes that make big differences in an individual’s ability to progress (and recover).”
To learn a system for implementing sustainable lifestyle, exercise, and nutrition behaviors, check out the free Coach’s Toolkit course from OPEX Fitness.