The world of Mixed Martial Arts has adoring fans all over the world. The sport has a wide variety of competitors, ranging from high-intensity athletes to real-life superheroes, but there is a white elephant in the room. While some may look like a spartan on the outside, metabolically and internally, they may be a wreck.
With the popularity of crossfit boxes and high-intensity workout programs spreading rapidly across the planet, there has been a lot of good done. There has also been a good amount of damage in the form of preventable injuries, exhaustion, chronic fatigue and a dependency on caffeine to get through the day.
While HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and other forms of exercise are beneficial for maintaining bone health, muscle growth, and maintenance, too much can cause damage both externally and internally.
When we engage in these exercises, the adrenals, two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys, have to secret cortisol and other stress hormones to handle the exercise. Too hard or too often can both wear out the stress response.
Lucky we have methods for quantifying the level of exhaustion we’ve put on our bodies. No, we aren’t talking about squeezing your pecs and determining if you’re ready for another day of pounding your chest.
Instead, we can measure the levels of cortisol from the saliva. Known as an ASI (Adrenal Stress Index), measurements can be taken across a 24 hour period.
This a very non-invasive and beneficial test to run on athletes and high-performing individuals. Even if you are not experiencing any signs of muscle loss, plateau, fatigue or otherwise, it’s a helpful biomarker to add to your list.
As you see, cortisol is necessary for getting up and getting you moving in the morning. It’s when cortisol is kept high at night from exercising too close to bedtime, consuming too many stimulants such as coffee and nicotine, or experiencing too much emotional stress.
Have you ever had a fight (any kind) with someone close to bedtime and were left tossing and turning throughout the night? Cortisol is part of the blame.
When this rhythm is thrown off due to excess stress in the form of training or otherwise:
- The ability for muscle growth and repair is greatly reduced
- Bone health is compromised
- Skin regeneration is reduced
- Thyroid function slows
- Immune system is impaired
- REM sleep is reduced
Care to take a day off from the gym yet?
Advanced Recovery Techniques
Resting is something that most people are good at. Often times, people rest too much! But, in the context of this article, we are speaking to the people who just can’t seem to slow down and take a breather.
Recovery Technique #1: Epsom Salt Baths
Your grandmother likely took epsom salt baths throughout her life, maybe she still does! The benefits of epsom salt, commonly known as magnesium sulfate are far stretching.
Soaking in a bath of warm water with about a cup of epsom salt dissolved into it will produce great results. It can aid digestion, muscle relaxation and repair and reduce inflammation and swelling.
Recovery Technique #2: Essential Oils
Essential oils are potent extracts of various trees, herbs and other plants that are commonly found in small glass vials. Some of the most popular and beneficial extracts are Eucalyptus, Lavender and Orange. Many essential oils have anti-microbial qualities and can provide a relief from allergies, sinus issues, stress, depression and even fatigue.
Eucalyptus is a particularly exciting essential oil to keep in your gym bag due to its ability to open up the airways. Put a couple drops of this oil into a bottle of water and spray it onto the rocks at your local gym’s sauna. Don’t use too much unless you want to make your eyes sting.
You can also add a couple drops of essential oils into your bathwater or onto your pillowcase for relaxation and improved breathing function throughout the night.
Recovery Technique #3: Sensory Deprivation Tanks
Joe Rogan has played a large role in re-popularizing the idea of using sensory deprivation tanks for relaxation, enhancing focus and mind expansion. These are incredible tools for people of all walks of life.
As you submerge yourself into a large tub of warm water mixed with nearly a thousand pounds of epsom salt, you float on the surface of the water in a sort of harmony with gravity. Neuroscientists have discovered that removing the sensory inputs to the brain is a highly rewarding and relaxing behavior. The stress hormone cortisol we’ve talked about plummets after a session in one of these tanks.
Also, the magnesium in the water is able to absorb into the body, providing relief from digestive issues, muscle spasms and pain. This should be part of every high-performing fitness fanatic and athlete. To be more clear, these are beneficial for everyone, regardless of your physical performance, they just happen to be very helpful for healing the physical body.
Take a Chill
Ultimately, we just need more time to relax, recover and allow the body to work it’s magic. Many of us can feel the effects of excess stress, except the majority of us do not recover and cope with it in the proper ways.
Add some relaxation time into your week and workout schedule. Remember, the time spent in the gym is NOT the time when you grow. The time resting, eating and recovering after the workout counts just as much.
Consider some of these relaxation remedies and next time you want to pound the weights too many days in a row, consider yourself warned.
Recover With A Good Night’s Rest
Sometimes all you need to recover from a workout and feel refreshed is a good night’s rest. New MOOD® by Onnit™ Labs is a serotonin-boosting supplement aimed at elevating a positive affective state and promoting restful sleep. The New MOOD® formula includes neurotransmitter precursors with the co-factor vitamin B6, catalyzing the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Additionally, four natural extracts, with a long tradition of reducing stress and combating poor sleep, are paired with two essential vitamins and magnesium to promote a mental state of calmness and well-being. So quit dragging ass through your day and get the energy and rest you deserve.