T.J. gives his top tips for enhancing recovery, preventing injury and ultimately, boosting performance.
Written by: T.J. Murphy
Since my rather dramatic recovery from my chronic knee problem, thanks to the wonder PT, Kelly Starrett, I’ve taken his advice and tried to bury into my day exercises and dietary disciplines he said I should weave into my life to enhance recovery, prevent injury and ultimately boost performance.
Some of these are:
1. Hydrate. Kelly says that dehydrated tissues are bad news for the athlete (makes sense) and that at minimum an athlete should take his or her weight in pounds, divide by two, and then aim to drink that amount in ounces, plus more to compensate for dehydration from training. So a 150-lb athlete should drink 75+ ounces of water per day. To enhance the absorption I’ve taken Cassidy Phillips (from tptherapy.com) advice and spike my water with Nuun tablets. I do exactly what Cassidy says he does: I have a tube full of Nuun tablets to the left of my computer (Tri-Berry flavored) and drop one in my water bottle once every hour or two, then walk to the water cooler, fill it up, and sip it while working. Cassidy said that the ritual is a good one not just for the hydration, but also to deflect some of the negative effects of a desk job by moving around. As Cassidy told me, one of the good things about an electrolyte supplement like Nuun is that it isn’t “fat juice” as he called typical high-calorie sports drinks. Nuun has 3 calories per serving according to the label I’m looking at. I also like having some taste to the water.
2. Mobility work. I had a “duh!” moment when Kelly first showed me how to stretch my hip flexors with long, two-minute stretches—stretches that shook free the debilitating knee pain that had hobbled me for 6 weeks. I admit it: I’m one of those guys who were as emphatic about stretching as I was about daytime television. But Kelly frames the stretching-movement-mobility idea in the right context: Change. He has you test your movement with something as simple as an air squat (or a simple walk across the room, as it was in my case) and then do 5 or 10 minutes of mobility work, and then re-test. “If there’s a change there’s a change,” he says. He wants you to look for black-and-white change and progress so you know if you’re getting something accomplished, and if not, to jigger the work so you do. What’s addictive about this approach to stretching is that when you start seeing and feeling real progress the game of it is on.
3. Mobility work every day. One of Starrett’s mantras for mobility training is: There are no days off. It’s only 10 or 12 minutes a day, but if you miss a day you go backward. And this is where “bury it in your day” comes into focus. In addition to taking an occasion break to fill up a water bottle, take a few minutes here and there to do some of the stretches that bring about this real, lasting change. There’s no excuse for not finding a couple of minutes here and there. (Want specific teaching from Starrett? He posts a short video every day on http://mobilitywod.blogspot.com). If you do 10 minutes a day that’s 70 minutes in 7 days, and on and on and on, and in a month you’ve put together some truly solid work.
4. Fish oil and Omega-3 supplementation. Starrett has me taking a tablespoon of fish oil each day to reduce inflammation and enhance recovery. It sounds gross but as he told me, Stronger Faster Healthier fish oil actually tastes good. “I like the mint,” he told me. “My daughters can’t wait to get their fish oil for the day, that’s how good it tastes.” It true—it does taste good and you don’t get those freaky bad-tasting burps that regular fish oil tabs give.
T.J. Murphy is the Editorial Director of Competitor Magazine. A 2:38 marathoner and five-time Ironman finisher, he is the former editorial director of Triathlete Magazine and Inside Triathlon. His writing has also appeared in Outside Magazine and Runner’s World.