Forget beast mode. MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY says sometimes it’s best to try least mode…
If you’re training harder than everybody else at your gym, but all those expected gains just aren’t coming, it could be your body’s way of telling you to back off. What you need could have nothing to do with set/rep schemes or the fact that your glutes aren’t activated.
TO STRESS OR NOT TO STRESS
Hormones are essentially cellular messengers that deliver information about what’s happening outside the body to cells inside the body. Cortisol is the 911 hormone. Anything that poses a potential threat to the body (a stressor) will result in cortisol being called in to help. Training is a stressor. The body needs a certain amount of stress to cause adaptation. So while cortisol is often seen as an “evil” hormone that stores fat and shrinks muscle, it is required for optimal health and actually burns fat under the right circumstances.
WHAT ARE THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES?
During exercise, cortisol works with your other fat burning hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline), and growth hormone to increase fat release. During rest, prolonged exposure to cortisol can disrupt the entire endocrine system, affecting important processes like sleep and digestion and can make you insulin resistant which isn’t great if you’re trying to lose body fat. At the most basic level, we want cortisol higher while we’re training BUT lower when we’re at rest.
RECOVERY IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TRAINING
I liken the body to a bank balance. Every training session is a withdrawal, every recovery session is a deposit. If you’re always training and withdrawing, and never recovering or depositing, eventually you will end up overdrawn and injured.
MASTER THE BASICS
Enhancing recovery is more than just eating clean, drinking plenty of water, and having a protein shake. What you take in before and during your training can be crucial. Make use of pre- and intra-workout windows and you’ll limit protein breakdown and minimize inflammation, all the while optimizing the hormonal response correlated with increased growth and fast recovery. Invest in a solution that has both protein and easily absorbed carbohydrates to take 15 minutes before your workout and during your training session.
In our brave new world, sleep has become a luxury and trying to prioritize it is often looked at as lazy or weak – ironic given that people who don’t sleep are actually getting fatter and weaker. Sleep releases growth hormone, and inadequate sleep is associated with higher levels of stress and lower levels of testosterone. Six to eight hours of quality sleep per night is the aim of the game.
TOP TIP: Rub Topical Magnesium Oil on the soles of your feet, on your throat, in your elbow crease and on the back of your knees before bed. Magnesium helps to dampen the nervous system therefore helping you to sleep.
Walking is our most fundamental movement pattern, and can be done anytime and anywhere. It helps spark recovery by increasing blood flow and circulation, essentially improving lymphatic drainage and the rate at which waste products and fluids are expelled from the body. Add in compression tights and Bob’s your uncle – these garments place pressure on the vasculature system and enhance the active muscle pump.
TOP TIP: ACTIVE LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE
Create a systemic drain post training by elevating extremities above the level of the heart in order to push lymphatic fluid back into central circulation. On lower-body training days, find a wall then lie on your back and elevate your feet and legs. After upper body training, just place the arms overhead in a relaxed position.
INVEST IN THE BEST
If you’re doing three HARD training sessions per week, you need to balance it out with three recovery sessions. These can include simple practices like trigger pointing in front of your TV, getting a massage, going to a yoga class, hitting the surf or grabbing 30 mins of zzz’s in low level sunlight. They can also be a bit more hi-tech.
Infra Red Sauna
Infrared light is used to penetrate the skin up to 70% deeper than a regular sauna, drawing out toxins at the cellular level. They also help to increase circulation of blood and nutrients to the muscles, ligaments and soft tissues which enhances healing.
Float Tank OR Epsom Salt Bath
You can head down to your local float tank for a complete experience in sensory deprivation or you can DIY. Epsom salt AKA Magnesium Sulphate crystals are available at any health food store. Add 200-400 grams to a warm bath and soak for 20 mins. This is a very simple and effective way to relax your muscles, decrease inflammation and increase blood magnesium levels. Perfect as part of a bedtime ritual.
Pop your budgie smugglers on and immerse yourself in a Cryo Chamber for three mins at temperatures as low as -160C. The freezing cold will send your body into a defensive mode, transporting blood, nutrients, and resources to the organs in the core. The body then starts oxygenating your blood, flushing it of toxins and lactic acid. Straight after, your body starts returning to its normal state increasing blood flow of your newly oxygenated blood back to your limbs. The body absorbs this blood, which is now enriched with erythrocytes, oxygen, collagen, and other essential nutrients.
TOP TIP: Want to seriously test your mettle? Load up your bath with ice from the local petrol station and see how long you can handle. The record is 72 minutes!
I’ll leave you with one final thought – you may think you don’t have time to recover, but do you have time to be injured?
“Action Alexa” is an internationally published celebrity trainer, sports model and nutrition and lifestyle coach with over 15 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry, and has worked with NZ’s world champion rugby team, the All Blacks. She has qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs and was named as one of the Five Toughest Trainers in Asia during her seven-year stint in an MMA gym in Hong Kong.
For the full article grab the October 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.