Hard Work Requires Hard Recovery
by Steve Fraser, US National Greco Coach
The one thing we wrestlers and coaches know is that it takes a lot of hard work to become a strong wrestler. I don’t think many people would dispute this theory. Wrestlers have the reputation of working harder than most any other athletes. The grueling wrestling practices, the running, the lifting, the calisthenics all promote a great amount of physical, mental and emotional stress to one’s being which is essential to building a champion. But to develop the ultimate toughness in a wrestler and to condition his mind and body which maximizes his “Ideal competitive state” one must also consider the equally important issues of ‘recovery’.
Powerful peaks of training stress requires equally powerful valleys of training recovery. In other words, you must work hard but you must also recover equally as hard.
Many wrestlers pay a lot of attention to the notion of training stress and working hard, no doubt. But sometimes they neglect the realization that they must give the same attention to training recovery.
What does recovery mean? At the most basic level recovery means doing anything that causes energy to be recaptured. Your body expresses its recovery needs through feelings and emotions such as telling you “I feel hungry or tired”. The fulfillment of these urges (eating or sleeping) is a form of recovery. Just like with stress, there are three areas where recovery occurs – mental, physical and emotional. Recovery is where the growth and healing occurs in these areas.
Some common signs of mental recovery are mental relief or calmness, an increased feeling of creativity, fantasy or imagination. Some common signs of physical recovery are reduced feelings of hunger, thirst, sleepiness or tension. Some emotional signs of recovery might include increased feelings of joy, humor or happiness and a decrease feeling of anger, fear or frustration.
According to James E. Loehr, author of The New Toughness Training for Sports there are five categories of how you can actually train the mechanism of recovery.
3. Active and passive rest.
4. Seizing recovery opportunities
5. Emotional catharsis
Sleep/Nap: Along with food and water intake, sleep is one of the most important recovery activities. Poor sleep habits can completely undermine the conditioning and toughening process. Both too much sleep (excessive recovery) and too little sleep (insufficient recovery) can cause problems. Some general recommendations are to get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed and get up within 30 minutes of your normal sleep times. Attempt to be more of an early bird than a night owl. Learn to take short naps (10 * 15 minutes) and wake up feeling completely refreshed and energized. Keep a daily record of the quantity and quality of your sleep, especially during periods of high stress.
Diet: Consuming adequate amounts of water and nutritious food is another very important recovery activity. When nutrition and hydration needs are not met even the most fundamental recovery mechanism will tend to break down. This is an obvious issue for the wrestlers who tend to cut a lot of weight.
Some general rules are: Follow a consistent schedule of eating and drinking. This is a critical component of your overall training plan as an athlete. Always consume a nourishing breakfast. Eat more small meals (4-6), this will keep your blood sugar stable, giving you more energy over longer periods of time. Eat earlier rather than later in the evening. Eat a wide variety of foods, with a preference for natural, fresh foods (no preservatives, etc.).
Active and Passive Rest: Recovery from training stress can occur in both active and passive rest. Active rest is where there is physical movement involved. Passive rest is where there is no physical movement involved. Active rest is light physical activity that breaks the routine of the normal physical training regimen. Activities such as going mall shopping, hiking, biking, golfing, tennis, basketball and swimming are all examples of active rest for a wrestler. Some examples of passive rest would include such things as watching TV, going to a movie, laughing, getting a massage, taking a whirlpool, reading or going for a relaxing drive.
All of these activities, if done specifically to enhance the recovery process, are forms of recovery training.
Seizing Recovery Opportunities: All sports have recovery opportunities within the event itself. Football players, for example, have the time in the huddle, time outs, half times and when sitting on the bench. In wrestling we have recovery opportunities when we go out of bounds, when an official calls for passivity and in between periods. An important aspect of recovery training is working to improve your ability to extract the maximum values from recovery opportunities that exist during competitive matches. Training yourself to refocus on strategies or relaxing during these moments is performance enhancing.
Planning good use of your down time between matches or practices plays an important role in your recovery tactics as well. How you spend your time and with whom can make a difference in how you manage periods of intense competitive stress. Having your cassette player and favorite music tapes with you or learning to sleep on planes or buses can make important contributions to you during these periods of time when you need to perform to your optimum capabilities.
Seize recovery wherever and whenever the opportunity exists. Good planning and preparation will only lead to enhanced performance and success.
Emotional Catharsis: The two most important ways of achieving emotional recovery after disappointments, failures or missed opportunities is to talk about it or write about it. Holding it inside does not allow you to fully recover and promotes future emotional stress. Here is where you need to listen to your true emotional needs. During competition you may block these emotions, but during the non-competitive times you must address these emotional issues which, again, is an act of recovery.
To enhance your overall “ideal competitive state” and success potential, include both training stress (hard work) and training recovery (hard rest) in your training plan. Realize that recovery is as equally vital to your performance as is tough training activity. Understand what recovery means (mentally, physically & emotionally) for you. Look for ways to maximize recovery opportunities both during competition and outside of competition. Remember* stress is the stimulus for growth. Recovery is where you actually grow.
“EXPECT TO WIN”
Article courtesy of Steve Fraser