Anyone who trains for peak performance in a sport or athletic pursuit of any sort will know that recovery is just important as the physical training itself and eating a diet that works for reaching your goals. Rest is commonly understood to be important for recovery. It’s true that letting the body be at rest and getting sufficient quality sleep is a key to growing, improving, and maximizing your output potential. However, there’s another ‘R’ in the equation - relaxation.
If any of you are in the midst of thinking ‘relaxing is a part of rest, isn’t it?’ we’ll stop you right there. Relaxing in as far as giving your body a reprieve from the rigours of your training is one aspect of it, but we’re actually more speaking about the mental aspect of relaxation. Which, as it so happens, is much more integral to top performance than many people are aware.
Maximized Mood for Maximized Performance?
Athletes or anyone who trains intensely are fortunate in that they inherently do much to establish a strong circadian rhythm and other aspects of what’s necessary to promote optimum levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.GABA is often referred to as the gas pedal / brake pedal of the brain’s 4 primary neurotransmitters, allowing you to ‘go’ with maximum efficiency and then ‘stop’ equally well. Be deficient in it and you’ll find it difficult to switch gears from one aim to the other, and struggle to understand how to be well while training hard.
Dopamine and serotonin are 2 more of those 4 primaries, and serotonin is one we want to take particular note of here. Serotonin regulates our mood, and studies suggest that the quality of your mood does factor into the quality of your training results. The majority of those in training will be incorporating a supplementary protein source, and certain plant-based (and thus vegan friendly) supplement mixes like Vega Sport Performance Protein are preferable because they now incorporate specific plant proteins like SaviSeed (Sacha Inchi, aka the ‘Inca Peanut’).
The relevance of this inclusion is that SaviSeed provides tryptophan, an amino acid that’s essential to the production of serotonin. And it turns out that as the ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin helps with the mental aspect of recovery.
The focus here isn’t going to be on supplements for improving your attitude to training, however. Instead, let’s get into the nitty gritty of HOW having the right mental perspective towards your training and recovery allows you to becoming more of what you want to become as a competitive athlete, or more simply somebody who wants to be at their absolute personal best.
Tension Kills Speed – And Resolve
Tension kills speed is an expression that’s often used by sports psychologists. If you’re wound up and the far from relaxed, that tension is going to take away from your ability to perform at your best. Now you may be thinking that’s no surprise there, and indeed it should seem pretty obvious. But what that tensions also robs you of is the way to form specific neural network connections and resulting thought patterns that create a positive association between of all of your strain and exertion and the ‘is it worth it?’ evaluation process that goes on anytime we’re involved in an activity that takes us out of our comfort zone.
For those of you who have trained rigorously, you’ll definitely relate to being way outside your comfort zone. Kinesiology defines there as being 4 types of recovery strategies – physiological, neural, tissue damage, and psychological.
A good many aspects of training result in physical pain, soreness, and strains, and those fall into the physiological and tissue damage categories. The challenge is finding the will to get up and do it again when your body is pleading for you to skip that workout. As discussed above, that’s about having those neural networks established and then overcoming the psychological challenges where you’re questioning ‘is this worth it / am I going to get there?’ etc.
Psychological recovery involves feelings of relaxation and re-establishing a sense of well-being and positive mood. Consider your brain as an organ that also needs time to recover from the regular everyday type of stress, but particularly from the stresses of those of you pushing yourself with extreme physical exertion.
Effective psychological recovery strategies work to disengage you from the performance. Heart rate, breathing, and body temperature remain elevated post-exercise and may take time to drop, as do anxiety levels about answering all of the questions.
Kinesiology studies have indicated that following intense training and demanding performances, athletes may experience the following symptoms:
- low concentration,
- lack of motivation
- increased levels of anxiety
So now we’re beginning to see the connection we’re taking about between having a brain that’s optimized with plenty of serotonin (a ‘happy’ brain) and being able to overcome the psychological challenges that come with intense training. Having your brain balanced this way puts you in a mental state that’s much more conducive to getting to where you want to be with your performance. Having a protein supplement powder with mood boosting ingredients makes a lot of sense.
If the mixing part of that’s too much of an inconvenience for you then Vega Sport Protein Bars are a nice alternative. They‘re formulated the same Vega Sport protein is, and that includes SaviSeed as well.
Alright, with the advisability of supplementing smartly now established, let’s wrap up our blog this weeks with some tips for better psychological recovery from training.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing techniques - make time in your training schedule for breathing as if it’s a training session itself. Breathing becomes your focal point and it is a passive process. Resist judging or getting frustrated when the mind wanders – it will tend to wander until you teach it to simplify things and stay in the present moment (via focusing on your breath).
- Take stock of the order of your pre-sleep activities – This is so you are gradually winding down your body rather than winding it up. In order for your mind and body to truly be ready to rest they need to be free of stimulation. Practice your pre-sleep routine at home so that you become fully comfortable with going through it there, and also have it ready for when you travel. Tailor it so that the focus in on relaxing, then resting, then sleeping.
- Find activities and interests that offer your mind a break from your sport or athletic pursuit and then integrate them into your weekly schedule where practical / possible.
- Experiment with being focused on the present via a conscious directing of your mind to focus on a present task, environment, or person so that you are trying to keep your thoughts very simple and entirely within what’s presently relevant. The ‘here and now’ as they call it.
Recovery encompasses a lot more than simply allowing for ‘down time’ so that your muscles can regenerate themselves, and doing it right involves making sure your mind has all the right signals so that the muscle between your ears recovers just as thoroughly as the rest of them.