Rest For The Day. Keep It Nice And Cold Too — The Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible

Based on my previous post, we’ve talked about what the amount of sets per exercise is ideal for your workout. On today’s blog, with the help of the men’s fitness exercise bible, we will be tackling about the rest period for your body.

The 4 Secondary Factors That Determine Rest Period

There are, of course, other factors, which may delay the process of recovery and stunt the anabolic process of rebuilding muscle, so let’s examine four of the most common circumstances that could affect your performance.

  1. You’re Just Getting Started – If you’ve never done strength training or haven’t done it for several months, your rest periods may be shorter than if you had been training consistently. If this is you, chances are you’ll see significant strength gains within the first 3-6 months, at which point your gains will begin to slow down. This is widely known in lifting circles as the honeymoon phase because those big gains will eventually wear off. Don’t be alarmed if this happens, just stick with the program and you’ll be guided with solutions that will help overcome any potential plateaus. 
  1. You’re Not A Kid Anymore – Remember those days when you were a kid and could rebound from a bike accident or broken bone in what seemed like no time at all? One of the biggest reasons for this resiliency is the amount of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) you produce as a kid. If you’re over 35 years old, your body simply will not produce human growth hormone like it did when you were a kid. If this is the case, don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure you address all potential diet and supplement hacks for anti-aging and take more time off to rebuild.  
  1. Stress Or Illness – If you have a lot of stress or are struggling with a virus or pathogen, chances are your body is using its resources to cope with those challenges and will not have the resources to strength train at peak performance. While most of the time this will be obvious, if you’ve ruled out all the other potential pitfalls of poor performance and can’t seem to put your finger on the problem this could, in fact, be your challenge. If this is the case, again, you’ll need to back off, take more time to rest and let your body recover. 
  1. Injuries – If you have a nagging injury or a repetitive stress injury that just doesn’t want to heal, you’ll need to back off and give it more time. Try waiting at least two weeks then test it out again. If this doesn’t work give it another two weeks and consider some physical therapy or massage.

If you struggle with any of the four secondary factors, make sure you adjust your recovery time. Again, don’t be afraid to take 10, 14 or 21 days off before you revisit a particular exercise and muscle group.  

Cold Water Therapy (AKA Cryotherapy) For Recovery

Ever noticed how professional athletes like basketball players get ice packs wrapped around their knees after every game? There’s a really good reason for this, which also points us to one of the most powerful recovery and rebuilding strategies for all three disciplines of the Fired Up program. 

Essentially, while localized targeted cold therapy can prevent bruising, swelling and numb pain, on a whole-body scale by immersing yourself in a cold shower, ocean, lake or bath you can bring down your heart rate, increase circulation, lower inflammation and speed up recovery. And by speeding up recovery time you can accelerate the building of more strength, which makes this one of the most prized strategies for the worlds greatest athletes.  

And while you may not be a world-class athlete, if you’ve ever felt sore from working out or felt limited by your ability to recover, this strategy will be a game changer for expediting your superhuman powers.  

Let’s take a look at some of the science behind cold-water therapy and how it integrates into the Fired Up program.

The Science

You’ve probably experienced the uplifting effects of cold-water therapy if not directly by jumping into a cold lake, indirectly when you accidentally stepped into a cold shower or a cold pool.  

While this may have been shocking, according to studies, cold showers activate your sympathetic nervous system and increase the availability of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and endorphins, which can reverse depression and other negative emotions.

As far as cold-water therapy for recovery, a landmark study analyzed 17 trials involving over 360 people who either rested or immersed themselves in cold water after resistance training, cycling or running. At the end of the study researchers concluded that cold-water baths were much more effective in relieving sore muscles one to four days after exercise than those who simply rested.   

And if you have a lot of stress in your life (like most of us) or suffer from getting sick often, studies also show that by exposing your whole body to cold water for short periods of time promotes “hardening,” which results in increased tolerance to stress and disease.

One of the most notable displays of superhuman power through cold-water therapy is Guinness Book world record holder Wim Hof who was made famous for swimming under ice, running a half-marathon barefoot on ice and being injected with a toxic virus, which had virtually no negative effect. 

Interestingly enough, Wim attributes his records to a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation, which are all included as part of the Fired Up program.

And if lifting your mood, expediting recovery and making you more resistant to illness doesn’t tip the scales and push you overboard, perhaps the fact that cold-water therapy has also been shown to help boost your fat-burning power will. This also includes drinking cold beverages, which force you to burn more calories as your body heats up that cold beverage (preferably without sugar).

How Cold and How Long?

Studies vary on how cold you need the water to be and how long you need to be under its influence but overall, for the bigger benefits you’ll need to make it colder and stay longer.  

Specifically, to acquire the bigger benefits like significant fat loss and expedited recovery you’ll need to immerse yourself in water ranging in temperature from 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit (10-18 Celsius) for 15-25 minutes.  

But even short bursts of cold water have been proven by studies to have a significant impact on lessening your sick days and boosting your mood. 

One such study enrolled 3,018 people who took a hot shower then used applications of cold water for 30–90 seconds and found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school. The researchers did not find a difference between the people who took a cold shower for 30, 60, or 90 seconds. This led them to conclude that cold water triggers the body’s immune system regardless of duration.  

With these studies in mind here’s what I recommend:

  1. After you workout take a warm shower just to clean off, then turn off the heat and just leave the cold on for 1-15 minutes. Since it’s difficult to completely immerse your entire body make sure you isolate the water onto your upper the back of your neck as well as your upper chest for most of the time since these spots are highly conductive in lowering your overall body temperature quickly to give you maximum benefits. For a minority of the time move it around the rest of your body, especially the achy sore spots.
  2. Drink ice water regularly.
  1. If you have a lake or cold ocean nearby take a swim for 15-25 minutes. Check to confirm the temperature if an ocean is nearby.  
  1. Try Cryotherapy from a local service. Check reviews on sites like to make sure it’s legitimate and worth the price. 
  1. While filling a tub with cold water and ice is a more advanced strategy, if you choose this route make sure you work your way up to it. Once you do jump in, start with 10 minutes 1-2 days per week and work your way up to 3 days per week for 20-25 minutes over the next couple months.

CAUTION: If you are feeling sick, unusually weak or tired and this is unrelated to exercise or muscle fatigue, do not engage in cold-water therapy or intense strength training.  

If you are feeling weak or under the weather intense strength training could compromise your immune system and throw you over the edge into a full-blown illness. If this is the case consider taking a hot bath and doing some light yoga.  

As for the cold-water therapy, I learned to obey this caution the hard way when I was on vacation one summer in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I had been pushing my body to the limit with daily hiking, mountain biking and swimming in freezing cold water. All was good until I hit a wall of exhaustion a week later and started feeling unusually weak and tired.  Instead of just taking a hot bath or shower and resting I went for a dip in the freezing cold Yampa river. While this felt great for about an hour or two after, I woke up the next day with a massive headache and had to nurse a cold for the next few days while on vacation (not so fun).

To learn more about how to optimize your workouts and rest, I suggest checking out the Fired Up program here.

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