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Monday, 2 October 2017

The three pillars of health and fitness (pt 3)

By Pete Ryan

Part 3  Recovery

(This is part 1 of a 3 part series about achieving optimal health find parts 2 and 3 at the bottom of this article)

So far we have covered nutrition and exercise in the last two articles, so this post we will examine recovery.  This might be the most nebulous of the 3 pillars.  With nutrition you can monitor weight, fat levels and muscle mass and get some idea of what to do with your diet, with exercise you are either getting stronger, or not getting stronger.  However recovery is affected by your whole life.  If you have a stressful day, you will need extra recovery, if you sleep badly, or do not reach the right levels of sleep, you will not be recovered, illness affects the bodies ability to recover.  The list goes on. Recovery is the thing that will vary most from day to day.  Most days you will know roughly how much to eat that coming day, you will have an idea of about the amount of exercise you should do, but you have no idea how much recovery you will need as things vary so much.

The number one recovery option is sleep.  Sleep is the bedrock of all recovery, why do you think in those military ‘hell weeks’, they stop the solders sleeping? They want to see how they deal with being unable to recover, so they get then to do physical things.  Things many of you could do if fresh, but get them to do it repeatedly as the recovery reserves dwindle. You see some of the toughest, fitness humans on earth slowly fail one by one and only the very few actually survive the week.  This is due to lack of recovery above all, I can virtually guarantee that if I gave them adequate sleep between each day they would survive the ordeal much more easily.

There are two aspects to sleep, duration and depth. Both of these will vary for person to person to person, but generally 7 or 8 hours of sleep works for most people. Depth of sleep is a bit more difficult, you need a whole separate article just to cover the different levels of sleep, needless to say you should wake up ready to take on the day without stimulants, everyone can feel a bit tired at some point throughout the day now again, but mostly you should be able to function without stimulants throughout a normal day.

Assuming you have sleep in place then there are some other modalities that can aid recovery, but remember, none of these can replace sleep as the number one recovery tool.

Massage, both self myofascial release and going to get a massage is a great way to improve recovery. As a massage therapist I rate massage as a powerful way to aid recovery, but benefits do depend both on those doing the massage and how your body responds.  Like anything massage isn’t for everyone, but for those it does help, it is a great way to encourage recovery and relieve muscle soreness.

Stretching, yoga and other similar modalities can help tight muscles loosen and so aid recovery, they may also improve exercise by allowing the body to get into better positions during exercise.
Electrical stimulation has been sold to many as a way to speed recovery, but I am not certain the science is there to prove that is effective?  If you feel it helps, then give it a try, but if it doesn’t do anything for you then forget about it.

Meditation has been used for centuries to focus the mind and aid recovery. How well it works depends upon the individual and how practiced that individual is at meditating. This can be used for a few minutes using an app on your phone, or continued for hours.  If this helps you then include it into your daily routines, but if it doesn’t then use the time doing other things.

Things that can affect recovery are stress, poor nutrition, health issues, over training, excessive systemic inflammation, and many other factors.

You can get some ideas about to incorporate self myofascial release into your own exercise by popping over to and downloading the book called “Self myofascial release”. 

Putting it all together

The secret of achieving the best health and fitness results is to get your nutrition, exercise and recovery into balance.  Like actual balancing, this is not a static process, things will wobble one way or the other and you will only ever achieve a momentary second of perfect balance before things change again and more small tweaks need to be made.  So, some evenings you may need an early night, or an extra snack, while other days you may need to drop a workout or add high intensity methods to keep reaping benefits.  The secret is to learn your own body and to try out new things so you can achieve the most benefits from your health and fitness lifestyle.  You can learn more by reading “An introduction to vegan fitness and health” over at and if you need any further advice feel free to contact me below.
Good luck with your health and fitness journey!

Part 1 - Nutrition can be found here
Part 2 - Exercise can be found here

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