Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to an entire spectrum of different athletes- all the way from 8 year old soccer players to Olympic medalists. The biggest difference I see between amatuer athletes and professional athletes is the level at which they take care of their body. The amount of training you do and the amount of time you spend working on recovery are both linear. The more you train, the more you have to work on recovery.
I’m of the opinion that there is no such thing as overtraining. I’ve worked with athletes that put in massive amounts of training week after week. If I did a week of their training I would be out of commision for a month. So how can these athletes train so hard and continue to make improvements and not hit a state of overtraining? They work on recovery like it’s their part time job. The training is not what separates good and great athletes, recovery is the secret to success!
Most people have no idea how good their body is supposed to feel because they are constantly in pain. It’s hard to train at your optimal level when you’re always borderline hurt. Here are 4 things you can add in with your training to spike your recovery. Better recovery=more training. More training=more athletic improvement. More athletic improvement=winning and we love winning!
1. Marc Pro
I was exposed to the Marc Pro in 2012 when I was working with CrossFit 808 in Honolulu. One of my mentors, Kelly Starrett, gave me a Marc Pro to test out with the team. I’m a skeptic person at best and I need to see positive changes myself before I start buying in on things like the Marc Pro. Since 2012 I’ve recommended the Marc Pro to all the athletes I work with that are looking for help with recovery.
You’re probably asking what does the Marc Pro actually do. The answer is: it gets the muscles moving. Pretty simple, right? Essentially, the contraction the Marc Pro produces is non-fatiguing but strong enough to get fluid in the muscles moving. This constant but non-fatiguing contraction is basically a lazy person’s way to recovery. If you wanted to get on an Assault Bike and ride at a non-fatiguing speed for 30 minutes you could get a similar effect. If you don’t have an Assault Bike at your house and you want to watch Game of Thrones while you recover, the Marc Pro is a pretty damn good option.
2. Recovery Pump Boots
The Recovery Pump boots look ridiculous. I remember seeing an elite triathlete at a race I was doing in Hawaii a few years ago with these on. It was the first time I had seen the device. It’s just hard to look cool with giant puffy boots on your legs, but they work.
The rationale behind the Recovery Pump is similar in a way to the Marc Pro. Instead of using muscle contraction to help get things moving, the Recovery Pump using sophisticated compression. This compression helps move fluid from the extremities to the torso. Think of the torso as the area where we clear non-useful elements of the blood/fluid after training. It’s essentially out with the old, in with the new when you get fluid circulating more post training.
Who uses Recovery Pump? The majority of NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams. Also, multiple branches of military Special Operations groups, elite triathletes and endurance athletes. That’s pretty good company to be in.
3. Nutrient Timing
I recently spoke with Anthony Almada on a podcast I do with another coach called the Doc and Jock Podcast. Anthony was one of the original founders of EAS and is the founder of another supplement company called Vitargo. Vitargo is basically a super carbohydrate that’s been pre-broken down so it’s absorbed faster. It’s a pretty cool product and you can hear the whole interview here.
The reason nutrient timing is important is that you need to be able to effectively replenish your stored energy. Studies have shown endurance athletes need between 400-600 grams of carbohydrate per day. For many of our athletes that eat a very low carb diet, they may only be consuming 25-50% of this. The best way to spike recovery is to time your nutrient timing correctly so that your body has the greatest chance of rebuilding itself.
When you exercise, your body depletes muscle glycogen as this is the main fuel for movement/exercise at the muscle. When we exercise and glycogen gets depleted, insulin stimulates glucose in the blood to be drawn back into the muscle to replenish glycogen. This is important to know because if we have more glucose available in the blood at the time of training we can replenish our energy source better. More ability to replenish the main exercise energy source equals more training!
Try this combo next time you train: drink 35-70 grams of a carbohydrate like Vitargo with 10-20 grams of protien in it 30-60 minutes before training. Drink the same thing within 20-30 minutes post training. The pre-workout nutrients will give your body readily available sources while training and the post workout drink will re-supply the muscles at the key post workout window.
Here are the two supplements I like to use together.
4. Embrace the cold
There has been a big debate on the usage of cryotherapy(cold treatment) in the sports medicine and strength/conditioning community. Here’s my stance: Use whole body cold treatment to help with recovery, don’t waste your time icing a sprained ankle.
What I mean by that is local icing for an inflamed joint is not effective. It’s effective at numbing the area but doesn’t help with the healing process the way we thought it used to. In fact, the original physician that came up with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) recently changed his stance on this to take icing out of use for acute injury.
When I say using whole-body cold treatment for recovery I am referring to things like ice baths and whole body cryotherapy chambers. The effects of these two forms of treatment for recovery are two-fold. First, much like the Marc Pro and Recovery Pump, we get a pushing of fluid to the torso. This occurs due to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the legs/arms causing more blood to be directed toward the vital organs in the torso. Increased fluid to the torso equals better nutrient/oxygen exchange and increased potential to rebuild after a tough training session.
The second positive effect is essentially a jumpstart to the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that helps predominantly with relaxation and recovery. Increased parasympathetic function leads to increased potential to recover and recuperate from hard training.
Neither of these are exactly something I look forward to since I don’t like to be cold. I would say between the ice bath and whole body cryotherapy the easier of the two to tolerate is the whole body cryotherapy.
If you want to train as hard as a professional athlete or Olympian you need to prioritize recovery just like they do. You have one body, you had better take care of it. If you’re really looking for that competitive edge, a better recovery strategy is your key to success.
Full disclosure, I hate to run. There, I said it and now I feel much better. I actually have more of a love/hate relationship with running. I love the science and technique of running mechanics. I’m actually fascinated by how you can squeeze more speed and efficiency out of someone that just assumes they are a bad runner.
When it comes to my personal desire to go for a run, it’s just not there. I blame the Army. They kind of ruined it for me with the whole wake up early and do a forced run almost every morning. Because everyone in the Army is technically a runner, we would see a TON of running injuries. I would guess that 50-60% of what I typically saw was running related. That’s literally thousands of running related injuries that rolled through my office during my time on active duty.
Now that I’m out of the Army and have a private physical therapy practice in Atlanta, I’m still seeing runners. I’ve actually developed some good relationships with a few of the bigger running groups here in Atlanta and it’s been a blast to help these athletes get better fast. Healing from an injury is great but do you know what’s cooler than that? Winning!
As a runner you are competing against others when you run but for most of us we are constantly competing against yourself to get a personal record (PR) on a race. I recently had a runner come to see me for some plantar fasciitis. If you are reading this and have actually put some decent volume in training you probably cringe when you hear the words plantar fasciitis. It’s basically the kiss of death for a runner and will take you out of your sport for a long time, if not fixed.
This individual had seen everyone under the sun for this issue including, podiatry, chiropractic, massage therapy and a different physical therapy group. This problem had been going on for about a year at this point and he was obviously frustrated when he came in to see me. He was also very surprised when I told him that we had to watch him run. Can you believe that? This guy had been to multiple other medical professionals and not a single one took the time or even thought it was important to watch him run. This is crazy! What if you went to a mechanic and he didn’t actually drive your car around to see what the problem sounded like or how the car acted when it was running? That's basically what had happened to this athlete.
After watching him run it was pretty obvious he ran like crap. I won’t get into all the specifics of the running mechanics in the blog but just remember my professional diagnosis was not plantar fasciitis, it was you run like crap. My prognosis was good. It was forget about your foot pain, we are going to make you faster! He was also had really bad hip mobility and tons of hip weakness. We spent the first two visits working on run form and getting some of the pain down in the calf/foot with soft tissue techniques to include Hawk Grips work and Performance Dry Needling.
Over the next two visits we re-tooled his running form even more and added in strength/mobility work for his hips. Think of your hips as the engine of movement for running. If you have poor hip strength/mobility it’s like riding your bike around on flat tires. Sure, you can still ride a bike this way but it's a hell of a lot easier to ride with with some air in the tires. Running is hard enough, don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Below are the exact 3 exercises we nailed down for this athlete to do to help fix this chronic foot pain and none of them have anything to do with the foot directly. The order of completion was this.
Pre-run (videos below)
-Anterior Hip Mobility Opener 2 minutes per side
-Band Hip Pull Throughs 2 sets just to muscle fatigue not failure
-Band Hip Side Steps 2 sets just to muscle fatigue not failure
This athlete typically ran 3 days per week so that’s all the strength work we added in for him. He did complete the anterior hip mobility opener 2 minutes per day regardless of if he ran or not that day.
So what was the result? 4 visits over 6 weeks. 5 minute PR on his 10K time. Oh and no foot pain. If you’re having running-related problems, fix the cause of the problem not just treat the symptoms.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and are a runner that has been dealing with injuries we can help. We’d love to chat for a few minutes and see if you are a good fit for what we do. Fill in the contact request below and we’ll set up a free 10-minute phone consultation with one of our Performance Physical Therapists.
Dr. Danny Matta DPT, is a Physical Therapist and Strength Coach based out of Atlanta, Ga. He teaches on the topics of movement efficiency, mobility and injury prevention internationally. He is also the Director of the Tactical division of the renowned MobilityWOD group started by Dr. Kelly Starrett DPT.
Full bio here.
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.