Five Recovery Adjustments for 2019

By Brian Carroll 

Recovery is defined as “a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.” For the strength athlete, few variables are more important than one’s recovery ability. If you recover better and more efficiently, you can train with more intensity and more frequently (if necessary). At times, I’ve struggled with a few aspects of my recovery. I hope that with this article, you can pick up a few things to aid your recovery and overall health going forward. I’ve tried quite a few different diet and training approaches in the last 20 years, but at times, more importantly, I’ve overlooked the things outside of the gym and dinner table. And this has been a mistake.

Further- after sitting in on Stan’s Vertical Diet talk at SWIS 2018 back in October  I’ve tightened up on a few components which smacked me in the face. While others I’ve realized over the last few years as it’s easy to help point out flaws in someone else’s approach, but it’s a different animal being objective about your own. It’s nearly impossible.

So, with careful consideration and reflection after the meet in November and since I can’t train due to my shoulder (Subscap/Supraspinatus tears and subsequent rehab), I decided to begin implementing some further adjustments to my daily recovery protocol. Congruently, since it’s the first of the year, this article seems fitting as there’s just something about a reboot at the start of a new year that helps others become motivated and hopefully more self-aware. The key is a sustainable approach and staying with the changes. This part is easier said than done. We all know our body will fight change with everything that we are, as Paul Oneid so eloquently puts in the recent article “Silence your Inner Eeyore.”

For a host of more detailed info, please refer to Stan Efferding’s “Vertical Diet” E-book for more about each of these topics, his thoughts on diet and putting together your custom diet, training and a ton more on supplementation and daily micro/macro requirements, as I’m not going to cover this here. There’s a whole hell of a lot more than diet in this book but helps you create a customizable and comprehensive approach for your unique and specific needs. Much like 10/20/Life and Back Mechanic, it’s not a template.

Full disclosure; I now sell this book (updated 7.5.19) but more than anything, I’m doing article to keep myself accountable along with hopefully helping a few of you who struggle, but I digress. Also, I would NOT promote or even mention any coach or product that I didn’t believe in and use myself, but the proof is in the pudding. Stan is one of the best in the industry, and his track record with clients and his athletic endeavors speak for themselves.

So, here are five things I’m implementing, and if fitting, you can too to get better each day, so your 2019 is on the most direct path to attaining your strength goals. There’s no better time than now. But first, always consult with your doctor before making any exercise, diet or sleep pattern changes.

  1. Walk daily! I’ve always been locked-in with this, but the timing would be inconsistent. Get out and walk for 10min at a time, multiple times per day. This is something Stu has been preaching for many, many years and was instrumental during my back rehab.  If you’re not walking daily and don’t have a specific reason (there are some, but I won’t give you excuses), then you’re missing out on a host of benefits. Walk daily after each ‘main’ meal; right now I’m doing 3-10min walks a day. This helps aid in digestion, decrease muscle soreness, promotes recovery and builds work capacity without confusing your body, i.e., the 1-30min walk is not ideal for the strength athlete. If you’re a strength athlete, frontal plane athleticism is your friend – think stability and balance — one of the best things you can do for longevity AND performance, and why it’s #1 and is a very low hanging fruit. Walking not only is beneficial directly after meals, but great for natural traction of the spine or as McGill refers to it as “Natures back balm” in Back Mechanic and Gift of Injury.
  2. Sleep patterns. Get to bed at a decent and consistent time, every day and get in a routine. I’m probably one of the worst offenders of this; maybe even a felon- I completely suck as I’m a night owl- I tend to stay up until 2 am or later (at times). A routine helps you get into a helpful rhythm and can cure a myriad of ailments that many of us deal with before, during and after a competition – insomnia, extreme binge night eating (guilty), staying up way too late because you’re so full, sleeping in, which has been shown to cause depression and overall lack of motivation. We all hate that ‘blah’ feeling- so getting on a reliable schedule that can provide a sense of accomplishment may help pull you out of that ‘funk.’ Not to mention, most importantly to some of us, it can positively impact your body composition and ability to train and most importantly; recover from it.
  3. Sleep Apnea. If you feel you may have Sleep Apnea, then get a sleep study right away. I wish I did mine sooner than 2006, but have slept so much better ever since but it’s ‘ongoing.’ If you have a CPAP, you need follow-up studies every couple of years or so at least in my experience. Stan even has a link in the Vertical Diet for an online sleep study. Some say the dental device or ‘mouthpiece’ is the best (I haven’t been able to dial in mine just yet), least invasive option but there are no free passes- as they can lead to TMJ, altered bite and movement of teeth, etc., with surgery being, by far the worst option. I haven’t’ met anyone who thought the surgery they had was a great idea as it’s extremely invasive and painful. CPAP user: keep it clean and experiment with your headgear. They make a great deal of diverse nasal pillow, headgear and mask options. I don’t like many of the ‘newer’ nasal pillows as they are made to be replaced often, vs. 13 years ago, so I’m currently in search of the ‘perfect fit.’ Because adjusting your mask time after time during the night, even subconsciously is to likely hurt REM sleep. I’m currently using this nasal pillow, but I’m struggling to find the best combination of a nasal pillow and headgear as it seems I tend to love one aspect but hate the other.
  4. Daily GPP. Get extra workouts in every day to attack your weak points/rehab/prehab/conditioning to help you recover and get into better shape, overall. These sessions can be as intense or relaxed as you need them to be – this is all personally dependent on what is warranted; also what YOU need to become optimal. BTW: This is above and beyond your daily walks – mentioned above. It can be in the form of sprints (not very likely for some of us but necessary for the strongman for instance). Or, what pretty much all of us should be doing – weighted carries (frontal plane strength), sled drags and pushes, depending on what you need to bring-up it can be the McGill big 3, stir the pot, glute bridges, thoracic mobility, etc. and any movement that you find useful in your arsenal. I would advise DAILY specific core work for just about everyone, especially the McGill big 3, as this will only help you unleash your distal mobility (think shoulders and hips) while maintaining a stiff and rigid core and minimizing energy leakages aka micro-movements.
  5. Water. Specifically, cutting water down after 6pm-7pm, so you’re not up all night making bathroom trips – massively interrupting your sleep. Like the four issues I’m attacking above, this will be contingent upon many variables, but I tend to drink too much water in the evening, and this is a double-edged sword because I’m staying hydrated, but it kills my sleep; I mean BAD. I earned myself a visit to the ER via Ambulance 6 years ago TODAY for kidney stones in prep for the 2013 Arnold. Kidney stones cured me (fear is the great motivator), and I would get my water in, but this nudged the pendulum too far in the other direction because when prepping for a meet, I’m sometimes up ten times to pee in the hours of 11 pm to 7 am. This would be a terrible night, but at least 5-6x was the norm. Now, I have it down to about 3-4x which is still too much. Yes, you want to get enough water, as sometimes, in the past, I have not. But here’s the question: How much is enough? It depends.  I don’t know exactly, but too much water isn’t a good thing either. You can drink too much water and dilute essential vitamins and trace minerals, which can cause issues as well. Generally speaking, most of us are past drinking enough water if our urine is clear-ish, so be mindful of WHEN you drink your water and if you make many bathrooms trips during the night, you could be overhydrated and can stand to make some adjustments just as I have.
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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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