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With Danny King, Master Trainer
The better and faster you can recover, the more progress you can ultimately make with your fitness — and the healthier you’ll move and feel. In this mini episode, Danny King, Master Trainer at Life Time, explains the difference between system and muscle recovery, and the ways we can optimize our efforts for each.
Danny King, Master Trainer, is the manager of team member development at Life Time.
“Most people think, ‘I’m going to wait to train harder, and once I’m training hard, I’ll focus on recovery.’ I like to flip the switch for people,” says King. “The more you treat yourself like a pro athlete by prioritizing recovery, the better you’re going to feel. Everybody can and should spend time on it.”
In this mini episode, King offers this advice around recovery strategies:
- For system recovery: This refers to our whole body, including our nervous system, and how it recovers from total stress amounts. There are three big areas to focus on: Sleep is incredibly important, as it allows your systems to recover and muscles to repair, grow, and build; fueling your body well through healthy nutrition choices is also essential; and training volume also has a large impact, so you may need to look at how often you’re exercising and if your plan needs any adjustments. However, King recognizes that these may be larger efforts to change, so he suggests starting small with strategies such as deep breathing or an Epsom salt bath — anything calming to switch your brain into the parasympathetic state (also known as rest-and-digest mode).
- For muscle recovery: This relates to recovery for individual muscles, such as when your legs quiver with soreness following a hard workout. Techniques such as stretching, foam rolling, using massage guns or percussive devices, or compression therapy can help move more blood into the muscles to aid them in recovering faster and preventing injury.
- For assessment: Your heart rate variability (HVR) is the measure of gaps between heart beats. The higher the variability, the more rested and calm (parasympathetic) you are. The lower the variability, the more stressed (sympathetic) you are. Measuring this can help you understand if your nervous system is ready to train hard, or if you need to do something easier.
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Transcript: Why Recovery?
Season 6, Episode 6 | October 12, 2021
Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.
And I’m David Freeman, Life Time’s national digital performer brand leader. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.
In each episode, we’ll break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.
And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.
In this mini episode, we’re talking about recovery with Danny King. He is a master trainer and manager of team member development with Life Time Training. And Danny, you have been here with us before. Thanks for coming back.
Yeah, thanks so much for having me back, excited to talk.
Alright. So we’re going to just get right into the topic today. We’re talking recovery and I’m going to just give you the two part question. What is it? And why does it matter for our health?
Yeah. I think that’s a great question and it’s such a simple word. But I don’t know that we actually usually define it. And so I’m going to give you two different definitions. Because especially when we’re talking about exercise, there’s really two different types of recovery that matter. So we can think of recovery as, especially our nervous system, but our whole body being recovered from exercise. The more intense the exercise we’re doing, or the more intense our life is and the more stressed we are, just the more total stress we’re putting on our body.
So we can talk about our body systems, being able to recover. And then the other side of recovery is we can think of muscle recovery. So that could just be an individual muscle right? We think we do a really hard workout, maybe wake up the next day and our legs are just quivering and we might say those muscles need a little more recovery. It’s important to distinguish those and I’ll try to make sure as we talk that I bounce back between them. Because, they both matter a lot but what we do about them is a little bit different.
So sometimes we may talk about doing things for recovery. Which one of those are we talking about? So that’s my definition and why does it matter? Is that, I guess the easiest pitch I give to everyone is the better and the faster you can recover, the harder and the more you can train and the more progress you can ultimately make. And so we can just see our progress go faster. We can feel better, we can move better if we can recover better and more.
So what are some big things that actually impact or that are impacted by recovery? Can you dive into that a little bit?
Yeah. So I think any time you get into a recovery conversation, we’ve got to start with a couple of big ones. We think things like sleep. The more we sleep, the better we sleep, the better that quality is, the more that’s going to impact recovery. When I say that, I mean both your systems recovering and that’s when your muscles repair and grow and build. Right? So sleep is incredibly important, as is nutrition and our ability to fuel our bodies. Eat healthy. That’s going to impact those things pretty greatly.
And then the other thing that probably has one of the biggest impacts on recovery is obviously our training volume. So, a lot of people and they start to think about hey I need to focus on recovery or I need to do this. The question often actually is: how much or how hard are you training? Alright and do we need to start to shift those things? So those are the big, kind of the big three I would say for most people that we want to address and that’s usually where we go.
And then there’s all sorts of other smaller things that we can do, right? And we can talk on, and I know we’ll get in talk different recovery strategies that we can use to maybe help our muscles heal and grow a little bit better or little things we can do to just get our bodies replenished.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about those two systems. And are there unique ways for each of them to recover and where is the overlap between the two of them?
Yeah, so when we think about — I’m going to start with muscle recovery. It’s probably a little faster, a little bit easier. And there is overlap right? So traditionally, if we think about a really hard workout, we’re probably sore and our system probably got pulled down a little. But at times we might say, hey, my legs are really sore but my body’s actually fairly ready to go so I might be able to do an upper body workout that day. Right? That’s when we talk about programming.
So when I think of muscle recovery, though, really, that has to do a lot of times with tissue quality and tissue power — so things like stretching; things like myofascial techniques like foam rolling or using some sort of massage or percussion gun to get some blood flow into those muscles; compression therapy, using things like Normatec. All of these styles of tools, where we’re trying to massage those muscles, pull blood in and out, a massage itself, are all fantastic.
Those types of treatments can help us get more blood into the muscles, and get them recovering faster, and get us back training or back exercising a little bit faster. They also tend to be great for the long-term injury prevention with those muscles.
Danny, just working with so many different clients, I’m curious. It’s something that is always pushed back on. We talk about recovery. We talk about active recovery and taking what we call rest days, but still moving. Why do you think so many members are resistant to actually going into what we call recovery?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think for a lot of people they think, ‘Hey, if I’m going to take the time to let’s go exercise. Right I’m going to budget an hour, and that’s all I’ve got. We’ve been told things like no pain, no gain. Or we’re looking at our watches that are giving us steps or calorie-tracking targets that we’re supposed to hit. And they’ve programmed us that we have to go hard, or least harder, in order for it to matter, and not necessarily playing the long game, which is today should be easy so that tomorrow can be hard, or whatever that is.
So I think — I really do — it’s a pushback I’ve started to have towards some of the ways that we measure things like steps, or movement, or closing rings on an Apple Watch. It’s great for people, but it does start to trigger us to potentially never give our bodies the rest or recovery it needs.
Yeah, it’s kind of feeling like if I don’t close those, I’m not doing enough. So I’m not giving myself that permission. It’s funny that you bring that up, because I just finished a 40-day program with my neighbor. And we’re taking this week as a recovery week with more active recovery. And we were both just saying this morning, it feels like we’re being a little lazy, right? And that’s not what’s happening. We’re giving our bodies time to recover, but we have to shift our thinking around it. It is a mindset shift around in this culture, where it’s all going all the time.
And I do think this will start to happen, but the next sort of evolution for things like that is the ability to really input what your schedule is or what you look like. So my ability to go into an app, and nothing quite exists like this yet or it has I haven’t seen it, but I think we’ll go here and say I want to train really hard on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. That’s maybe the day I work with my trainer. That’s the day I go to my GTX or my Alpha class.
So those are going to be the hard days. And then the easy days, I want my tracker to actually bump me to maybe slow down or recover so that I’m ready for my next day. So starting to shift around based on someone’s desired schedule or desired days to go harder and easier.
I think if we can, let’s clearly define — it’s like an oxymoron when you hear active recovery. Can you tell us exactly what active recovery is?
Yeah, so active recovery is simply the idea of, again, like we say, being active, but doing in such a way that we’re really just trying to promote things like blood flow and low intensity recovery. So it could be things like even as simple as going for a walk. Usually we might want a little more intensity that, maybe a faster walk or an incline walk or something like that.
I’ll give — this isn’t a hard guideline for everyone, but if we think about heart rate things, we’re thinking 120 to 130, 140 beats a minute for most people, where we are elevating the heart rate slightly. We’re not sitting on the couch. We’re not just moving. And then things like, again, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, mobility programs all fit into that definition of active recovery. I’m bringing muscles through range of motion. I’m bringing length through them. I’m bringing blood into it. But I’m not doing enough to create muscle failure, muscle breakdown, and fatigue.
Are there any other easy ways that people can implement recovery into their schedules?
Yeah, I think — so obviously, I’ve spent a little more time talking about the muscle recovery side of things right? When we think about this idea of system stress or system recovery we mentioned big ones like sleep and nutrition. And the hard part with always mentioning those first is they can be really tough to change. You know, just telling someone sleep better. That’s a lot of work, especially you got kids at home, whatever the thing is, that’s not easy. So while those matter, I actually usually like to start people with much easier things.
And a couple of things that you can do, that we can apply immediately today, is I love breathing drills. It doesn’t have to be full meditation. But lay on the ground, elevate your feet, and get into some really deep breaths. Do that for five minutes and you’re going to feel so much better. And what we’re doing is we’re trying to switch our brain into a really parasympathetic dominant nervous system. That’s our rest, digest, relax nervous system. So things like five minutes minimum of deep breathing. You also hear things like journaling, like gratitude type journaling.
I love things like fiction reading. It’s just trying to turn the brain off and get our body out of that stress mode. Probably my favorite method, the thing I encourage any client to do, is an Epsom salt bath. So Epsom salt is a magnesium salt, 1 to 2 cups in a hot bath so for 15 to 20 minutes and you’re going to feel fantastic afterwards. Especially do it at night, it will actually really help your sleep.
But I love things like that because I can go implement that tomorrow. Telling someone to change their nutrition, that’s a process. So for most people, I just say, give me at least five minutes a day, probably in the evening towards that wind down, that we’re just going to dedicate to getting our brain out of that stress mode, out of that hard training, hard-working push mode and flip into that rest, digest, calm mode. Anything we can do that does that is going to really help accelerate our recovery.
Yeah. And if we can make it even more objective for individuals who are questioning how do I know if my body’s ready to perform at a certain level? I know that we’ve discussed before like heart rate variability or they have certain gadgets that allow us to see if the body’s readiness to perform. So can you speak a little bit about that? What heart rate variability is and how that actually speaks to recovery as well?
Yeah. I think that’s the exciting thing is our ability to actually start to measure and monitor something like this. So heart rate variability is measuring the gap between beats. So if we think about a heart that beats 60 beats per minute, we would think of that as being on the second. But it’s not actually happening. There’s small variations between that. The higher the variability, the more kind of randomness there is to those beats, the more parasympathetic we are, the more rested and more calm we are.
And you can think of it as your body’s just kind of saying, heart, do whatever you want. We’re good. The more stressed out we are, the more sympathetic we are, the lower our variability is, it’s our body kind of locking down and saying beat when we tell you.
So we can measure this. We can take a nighttime measure or measure it in the morning. And especially when we were able to compare to your standard and we can see the big deviations from norm, it gives us an idea of, is your body — specifically your nervous system — ready to go, ready to train hard? Or is maybe today a day that I should back off and do something a little bit easier?
So you’re saying that my body could probably not be sore, but I still could be in a state of stress not ready to work out intense. Correct?
Correct. And it could go the other way. You could wake up pretty sore and think, ooh, I’m not sure I should do it. And we find out that your nervous system is pretty ready. Maybe I need to modify slightly. You’re not going to be able to squat today heavy or something like that. But my body’s ready for stress, ready for load. So it’s interesting to see how much sometimes we can push.
I love it. I love that.
So Danny, anything else about recovery you want our listeners, viewers to know before we sign off?
Yeah. I would say if you’re listening to this, and you’re a casual exerciser, you come to the club a few times a week, and you’re saying, hey, this seems like stuff for athletes. It’s everybody’s an athlete. That’s my favorite way to think about it. And the more you treat yourself like a pro athlete, by prioritizing recovery and these things, the better your body is going to feel. And you’re going to start to find that you’re going to be able to start working harder and harder because you’ve prioritized it.
So everybody should and can spend time on it. And as weird as it sounds, spending more time on recovery actually often has the effect of allowing you to train harder, which allows you to get better progress. Instead of most people think, I’m going to wait to train hard and once I’m training hard I’ll focus on that stuff. I like to flip the switch with people right? Treat your body like a pro athlete and you’ll be amazed at what it does.
Yeah. Great minds think alike. I want to say Bowerman, right? Bowerman, something along the lines is everybody’s an athlete. It all starts up top to treat your body like you’re an athlete and the performance yields from that.
Alright, well Danny, Thank you so much for coming on, lots of good info here.
Absolutely my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?
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Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and video production by Kevin Dixon, Coy Larson, and the team at LT Motion. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.
The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.