Mastering Your Craft

Mastering Your Craft

            The process of becoming great at something is a slow.  As anyone who has every attempted being great can tell you it is filled with hardship, disappointment, and sacrifice.  So to ease this inevitable struggle you will experience you should do everything in your power everyday to push you in the right direction.  This article will look at the only thing you can control everyday to get better and reach new levels of performance. 


            The only thing you have in your hands every single day is how you choose to recover.  Recovery does not just happen, at least not optimally.  Recovery requires so many different aspects like nutrition, hydration, sleep, soft tissue work, stretching, contrast showers, or heat.  Believe it or not these do not cost much if any money.  You might not get the top of the line recovery equipment but research is starting to show that there is little difference between top of the line and the basic recovery methods. The key is to do what ever you can, whether it is contrast showers or if your lucky enough to have access to normatech recovery system, do something to help you recover.  You master your recovery by practicing it everyday.  The more often you actively do perform recovery techniques to sooner you will learn what works best for you and how to do them with the most efficiency.


            You would have had to live under a rock for the last two decades to not realize how great of a role nutrition plays in performance and recovery.  I will not get into the specifics of nutrition, or attempt to prescribe anything because it is far to individualized.  But I will get quickly into the basic interactions between the body and food. We will start little and get bigger.  Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals.  These both can be further subdivided into fat or water-soluble vitamins, and major or trace minerals.  Do not ignore these because adequate levels of each help to increase the speed of cellular process, such as ATP production, fat metabolism, and protein synthesis to name a few.  Macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and they are where were we get our calories from.  We need all three in order to perform at our best as athletes.  There is so much out there on the “war on carbs” or ketogenic diets, while this has a purpose it is not optimal to use for extended periods of time , over three months. However they do have their place. Short of going to an exercise science research facility you will likely not be able to determine your true basil metabolic rate or your efficiency at using fats for fuels.  So your job is simply to provide your body with all of the nutrients, micro and macro, from high quality foods. This will provide your body the best opportunity to repair and recover from training.

Hydration is interesting because yes you can drink too much water and cause your body to go into hyponatremia, and death is possible. If your pee has color to it your will not go into hyponatremia from another bottle of water, so go a head and drink it.  Following a workout the first thing you should replace is water.  Without this your cells will not be able to expel waste, or repair at the optimal rate.  This may be even more important that taking in protein because our bodies have an amino acid pool to pull the building blocks necessary repair or form new proteins within our muscles or else where. So get plenty of water before protein.  


It is becoming common knowledge that static stretching over 30 seconds can reduce force production in a maximal voluntary muscle contractions if the few hours following the stretch.  But holding that same stretch for 10 – 15 seconds has not been shown to cause a decrease in force production.  You can still lengthen the muscle to allow for increased range of motion without reducing force production capabilities.  Stretching requires almost no equipment, little time, and for many this is a great place to start improving your recovery because it can be done anywhere.


             If your not getting enough sleep your sabotaging your self.  Get more.  If you want more information on sleep look to the barbell shrugged podcast episode 158 for some enlightenment. 


            Thankfully we are at an age where it is accepted that maybe getting a little looser, and doing some mobility work isn’t only for the “weak”.  I have yet to find a single person who does not need mobility work on some area of there body. Luckily there are so many resources on how to mobilize joints and tissues prior or after training. For tips for mobility or movements simply google it you’ll be amazed how much there is. I will say that mobility for mobility sake does not do an athlete good.  Just because one athlete benefited from doing a specific drill does not mean you will have the same response.  When mobility work is performed it will bring you to a point of discomfort before feeling better.  So choose your drill carefully based on what it is that your body needs, and what your sport demands. Once you establish those two things you will be able to better identify what drills will provide you with the biggest bang for your buck.  

Contrast Showers

            It is incredible what a contrast shower can do for your recovery.  If you do not have access to a whirlpool with an ice machine this is an incredible second option for you.  The purpose of the contrast shower is to stimulate blood flow.  However because the water only hits a limited portion of your body it may not be perfect if all of your muscles have been trained incredibly hard.  But siting through 20-30 seconds of super cold water followed by hot water will increase blood flow to the tissues the water is hitting, and start to hasten the recovery. 

Sauna or Steam

            Some gyms, even hardcore gyms can occasionally have either a sauna or a steam room.  These are great resources to take advantage of.  Fifteen minutes inside of either of these following a work out will start to relax the muscles you have made so tense during the training session.  You can take this time to implement some of the other recovery techniques such as eating high quality food, drinking plenty of water, stretching, or mobility work. These fifteen minutes will give your muscles some much-needed rest and again allow for increased blood flow to various tissues. 

All of these various methods serve a second purpose this being mental recovery.  As anyone who has ever grinded day after day in pursuit of a seemingly impossible physical accomplishment can tell you it gets mentally taxing.  All of these things provide you with an opportunity to clear your mind, and refocus your energy allowing you to further sustain the workload necessary to accomplish these huge goals.  With this mental recovery I’m not talking about doing yoga, or meditating, but simply allowing your mind to gather its thoughts and reenergize for the rest of your day.  You certainly do not need to do all of these things at once, but you should start to implement a new aspect of recovery once you have mastered the last.  Working at these everyday is necessary to get fully recovered just like it is necessary to work at your craft everyday to master it. These daily small efforts will compound upon each other building your platform needed to master your craft.