Being an avid athlete and a type "A" personality myself, I have experienced that "over training" syndrome where I feel I need to do more to be the best I can be, for whatever event that I am training for. I have pushed myself to the limits (or beyond) to where I have actually exceeded my momentary recovery limits and entered into a state of metabolic catabolism. Not good as they say.
This situation, which MUST be limited, results in restlessness, low-grade muscle fatigue, and variations of muscle and associated tissue tenderness, chronic injuries, mental stagnation and what we generally call "burnout."
Do you realize that the single most important factor in building bigger, stronger and leaner muscles other than your training and nutrition, is sleep? That's right, sack time. In my opinion, being medically oriented, since PLANET MUSCLE really discusses substrate restoration and recovery with training, nutrition and nutritional supplementation for steroid-free athletes, with far more honesty and more completely than all the other magazines, I'm not going to cover those issues much. I do want to say however, in the area of food and supplements, the greatest anti-catabolic agent by far, is adequate caloric energy, with the preference being, in descending order, protein, carbohydrates and fats. This is an established fact!
Secondly, there is some proven legitimate recovery or anti-catabolic food supplements and these include in the order I believe, to work best, (and this is based both on scientific studies and personal use):
- Protein, but specifically anti-catabolic casein.
- Protein, but one with a full whey and egg spectrum for immune-potentiating anabolic action. Beverly Muscle Provider, with hydrolysates, isolates, concentrates, lactoferrin and albumin, is rated high, according to independent medical evaluation groups.
- SportPharma Ribose. (This product has a glowing research base.)
- Worldwide Sport Nutrition Nitroglycerol, because of the high glycerine hydration content.
- MuscleLinc phosphatidylserine (Cort-Bloc), a proven anti-estrogen.
- L-Glutamine, L-Arginine, L-Taurine, and the 3 Branched Chain amino acids.
However not taken separately, but in a multi-amino acid mix.
- Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamins C/E/B, Co-Enzyme Q-10, Glutathione, quercetin, all anti-oxidants.
Let's get back to sleep! Sleep is extremely important yet too often, because it seems so simple, too many athletes pay it short shift. In balancing sleep and rest, workload and recovery, the saying "less is more" is extremely apropos. Did you know that studies suggest that heavy athletic training may cause a need for as much as 9-10 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period? Hardly anyone gets this much.
Your body is a precise mechanism and it needs a precise time to rest and recuperate from the increased demands you put on it during a lengthy period of intense training. During all rest phases, which accumulate over time, this is the time when the cells respond to a stimulus, and either grow, inflame, repair and strengthen, or actually weaken, pulling the immune system in either direction. Sleep deprivation research suggests that besides the immune response, rest and sleep also impart great psychological effects and these directly affect your physical body by either enhancing your energy levels and athletic performance or conversely, pulling your immune system in the other direction.
So first, let's establish that nutrition, rest and sleep are your major anti-catabolic road warriors, but there are others. Personally, throughout my competitive journey I have had a few important people working with me on key ancillary elements to recovery, and thus, successful training. For example, David Maile is a Fort Meyers, Florida, massage kinesiologist /therapist who has worked with me 2-3 times a week, between intense training sessions, to relax muscles which may be mis-aligning body structure via excess tension and fluid. He has helped me to relax psychologically and physically.
Proper mentation is important. Your athletic performance and ability will always be better when you are in a placid mental state devoid of major stress, as well as when your body is relatively pain-free. These are both positive signs of restoration, signaling that your body is ready to resume its training load.
What About Muscle Restoration, Recovery And Massage?
The therapeutic effects of massage are amazing. Massage has proven effects on your skin, fibrous structures, muscle tissues, sensory nerves, circulation, lymphatic system, and of course, as previously mentioned, your psychological state.
Believe it or not, fitness and bodybuilding competitions are two unique sports where healthy skin is of prime importance. In fact, contests are won and lost on the way the body looks with the tanning lotions applied. If you have raunchy dry skin, you will simply not look glowingly healthy under harsh posing lights and your skin color will not take properly. Massage with special acid-base adjusted creams, helps your skin police itself by removing dead epithelial slough-cells and helps keep the pores of your skin clear. This will increase the excretion of sweat and sebum. This helps pass any micro-fluid waste out of the skin and fascia and also make the self-tanners look better. For the fibrous structures, massage helps prevent adhesions within the active tissues (muscle) and between muscle and associated structures.
Pain in the muscle-associated tissue structures can be relieved by deep massage. In theory, deep massage helps move excess fluid toward the heart and aids in drainage per se. Such action can facilitate the local and general systemic recovery of tissue. Tissue/blood pH (the measure of acid/base) is often depressed from increased hydrogen ion concentration, excess lactate and microscopic tears in focal tissue.
Muscle can be mobilized with slow rhythmical massage. This has an analgesic effect through the sensory nerves on your entire body. The overall effect of circulation improvement due to massage is an increase in venous and lymphatic return. This reduces swelling/edema, eliminates cell waste excess, and even potentially increases oxygenated blood flow. This provides more nutrients and foodstuffs, which increases cellular metabolism. All this aids the healing or restoration process.
Psychologically of course, massage can have either a stimulation (event preparation) or relaxation (therapeutic) effect depending on the techniques used. At my Pro Debut at the Jan Tana Classic, I was entering the contest with a third degree hamstring muscle tear and a mis-aligned pelvis (1.5" of deviation). Fortunately for me, Jan Tana had contracted with a massage therapist specialist -Cinthia Dahl.
Ms. Dahl has been a serious athletic therapist for 10 years in LA. She specializes in Neuromuscular and shiatsu massage, working on luminaries such as The World Cup Soccer Teams at The Olympics, and some players of the LA Lakers. As well, Cinthia has worked on Magic Johnson, Nicholas Cage, Paul Anka, Hulk Hogan, Billy Gunn, (The Assman), Sharon Stone, Gary Shandling, Geena Davis, Sean Penn and bodybuilders such as Craig Titus, Dr. Jim Wright, Jeff Everson and Michael O'Hearn.
At any rate, she worked with me for 2 hours hitting spots where I never knew there were spots, even with my extensive PT background, which includes a lot of massage therapy. You could say that I was really messed up, but afterwards I felt like a whole new person and no longer felt the pain down my leg that was so intense that I could hardly walk before she came up to the room. My flexibility was restored and I had achieved a form of temporary rejuvenation. This took a lot of psychological pressure off.
As an aside, I was so impressed with this body of work; I want to note that Cindy has taken massage a step further. She has produced an interesting, informative 20-min. video where people can learn basic trigger point relief relaxation massage technique. This video allows even a neophyte at home, to relieve a partner's muscle pain and stress, from a specific daily regimen.
I want to stress that as a professional reviewing it, this is an introductory session in massage techniques that anyone can master. It's perfect to compliment your training program and it's fun and cost effective. I suggest that for anyone who does train, to get this video and have a training partner, lover or friend help you with this and make time for this at least 2 -3 times per week. In a quick 20 minutes, with no equipment needed but attention, you will notice a significant up-tick in your mood, with an increase in comfort, body strength, flexibility, and overall energy level.
Ice, Nasid Drugs, Tanning Salons And Bubble Baths
I'll bet you are surprised to see tanning beds and baths under muscle restoration huh? Actually, although it is brutal beyond human belief, one of the absolute best methods of total muscle and body restoration is an ice bath following your training, but for only a maximum of 8-12 minutes. You can think of it as a giant form of liquid cortisone. Ice is the best, supreme anti-inflammatory agent, better than any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxsyn), in my opinion.
You all know what ice does to pain and injury, but it is just temporary. But if you could ice, let's say chronically sore shoulders every hour, for 12-15 minutes, you could literally be pain-free all the time. However, being a human ice machine is not practical and frankly, it's painful.
Besides the standard issues of drugs, chiropractic adjustment, PT, massage, accupressure and acupuncture, another method of relaxation and downtime can actually be a trip to the tanning salon!
Yes, I know it is irresponsible to suggest that you spend a lot of time camping out in sun beds, as there are more than a few studies suggesting that this form of UV is not particularly good for the deep layers of skin, internal organs and our eyes.
So don't live in them! However, consider very short time bouts using sun beds. Bodybuilders know how extremely relaxing they can be in the middle of a hectic day. A tanning salon literally forces you to slow down and rest your body for 20 minutes. The actual radiant heat is very relaxing and therapeutic on your body. The sun bed is a time when you can cover your eyes, clear your mind, listen to your posing music, mentally-rehearse and meditate (or just drift to sleep). Of course you are getting a tan too, which definitely accentuates your physique. We all know that.
Tanning beds are only to be used pre-contest to give you that good base tan that will give you the right color under the stage lights. I suggest about 10-20 sessions.
Another unusual but favorite relaxation method of mine is to wind down at the end of the day with candles, soft music and a bubble bath. (Editors note- hey Kim, are you interested in a partner - you don't want to waste all that bubble bath and someone has to do your back.) It is also a good idea to add Epsom salts in the bath water to encourage skin pore osmosis of those fluid matrixes of a toxic nature that can escape. This and the heat can help ease sore muscles and joints. A whirlpool adds another dimension too, as a whirling form of hot moist massage. Whirlpools are therapeutic as they help increase muscle circulation to lower ischemic tension.
The last relaxation method (a definite must) is to take one day off a week to do something out of your regular rigmarole. Do something fun and relaxing with friends such as packing a healthy picnic basket and going down to the beach, or going out on the boat (for those of you close to water), or catch a movie, or go to a theme park or the zoo. Debbie Kruck, Mandy Blank and I, enjoy our "Fat Sundays" where we get to splurge a little and hit all the ice cream joints like at Ice cream World and Edie's.
All of these unusual methods of restoration and revival for your body and mind are so important to your training regimen and are often overlooked which will lead to over training and burnout. You work too hard to reach your goals and this hard work may be counterproductive. So, please take my advice and give your body and mind a break by throwing these methods into practice. You will be guaranteed to reach that fine athletic performance that you are striving for.
About Kim Hartt
Kim Hartt was the 1996 overall winner of National Florida Fitness Championships. She graduated Magna cum Laude in her Physical Therapy class, earning her BS, becoming a CPT in rehabilitation medicine. She is now in private practice in Studio City, CA. Kim has an on-line fitness store to help people with their fitness goals.
She is the author of a beginner's treatise on weights, nutrition, fitness and health. Kim also has a pre-contest diet plan, a skin care line and an on-line personal training site. For guest appearances, modeling, PT or personal training. Check out her website at: http://www.kimhartt.com, or click here!