Hard Work Requires Hard Recovery – Part 1

February 28, 2014 (revised reprint, part 1)

This article, written by Olympic Wrestling Coach Steve Fraser, is oriented toward wrestlers, but there are practical applications for any type of athletes.

The one thing we wrestlers and coaches know is that it takes a lot of hard work to become a strong wrestler.

I don’t think many people would dispute this theory.

Wrestlers have the reputation of working harder than most any other athletes. The grueling wrestling practices, the running, the lifting, the calisthenics…all promote a great amount of physical, mental and emotional stress to one’s being which is essential to building a champion. However, to develop the ultimate toughness in a wrestler and to condition his mind and body which maximizes his “ideal competitive state” one must also consider the equally important issue of ‘recovery’.

Brad Vering
Brad Vering, one of coach Fraser’s athlete, was a great example of hard work and smart recovery.

Powerful peaks of training stress require equally powerful valleys of training recovery. In other words, we must work hard but we must also recover equally as hard. Many wrestlers pay a lot of attention to the notion of training stress and working hard, no doubt. But sometimes we neglect the realization that we must give the same attention to training recovery.

What does recovery mean? At the most basic level recovery means doing anything that causes energy to be recaptured. Our body expresses its recovery needs through feelings and emotions such as telling us “I feel hungry or tired”. The fulfillment of these urges (eating or sleeping) is a form of recovery. Just like with stress, there are three areas where recovery occurs – mental, physical and emotional. Recovery is where the growth and healing occurs in these areas.

Some common signs of mental recovery are mental relief or calmness, an increased feeling of creativity, fantasy or imagination. Some common signs of physical recovery are reduced feelings of hunger, thirst, sleepiness or tension. Some emotional signs of recovery might include increased feelings of joy, humor or happiness and a decrease feeling of anger, fear or frustration.

According to James E. Loehr, author of The New Toughness Training for Sports there are five categories of how we can actually train the mechanism of recovery.

  1. Sleep/Nap
  2. Diet
  3. Active and passive rest.
  4. Seizing recovery opportunities
  5. Emotional catharsis

Sleep/Nap: Sleep is one of the most important recovery activities. Poor sleep habits can completely undermine the conditioning and toughening process. Both too much sleep (excessive recovery) and too little sleep (insufficient recovery) can cause problems. Some general recommendations are to get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

Go to bed and get up within 30 minutes of your normal sleep times. Attempt to be more of an early bird than a night owl. Learn to take short naps (10 – 15 minutes) and wake up feeling completely refreshed and energized. Keep a daily record of the quantity and quality of your sleep, especially during periods of high stress.

Diet: Consuming adequate amounts of water and nutritious food is another very important recovery activity. When nutrition and hydration needs are not met even the most fundamental recovery mechanism will tend to break down. This is an obvious issue for the wrestlers who tend to cut a lot of weight.

Some general rules are: Follow a consistent schedule of eating and drinking. This is a critical component of your overall training plan as an athlete. Always consume a nourishing breakfast. Eat more small meals (4-6); this will keep your blood sugar stable, giving you more energy over longer periods of time. Eat earlier rather than later in the evening. Eat a wide variety of foods, with a preference for natural, fresh foods (no preservatives, etc.).

Next issue I will conclude my “Hard Work Requires Hard Recovery” column by covering the other areas of recovery:

  1. Active and passive rest
  2. Seizing recovery opportunities
  3. Emotional catharsis

Steven Fraser, Olympic Wrestling Coach Steve Fraser was the 1984 Olympic champion at 198 pounds in Los Angeles – which made him the first Greco-Roman gold medalist in American history. He served as national Olympic coach for USA Wrestling for over 18 years where, among many victories, his team made history by winning the 2007 World Team Title. You can visit www.uscamps.net and www.Themat.com for more wrestling news.