Maintaining your Edge: Recovery for Savage Masters

As I wrote when starting this community, this is a place for those of us who are no longer teenagers.  But despite the fact that we are aging, we want to continue to push ourselves to new limits – in the gym or wherever we train, and in life.  That’s all great but we need to be realistic and ensure that proper recovery is an extremely important part of our training plans.

This past weekend I competed in the NorCal Masters Crossfit competition.  I had an incredible two days and left very energized, with a whole new set of goals to chase over the next few months.  I fell asleep pretty early Sunday night and Monday morning I woke up feeling…sore.  My mind wanted to get into the gym, and I’m sure I could have gone in and done something, but I made myself skip it (and my coach is great and careful and wouldn’t have let me do much anyway) and my only workout that day was to take our dog on a nice, long walk.  Why?  Because I knew that pushing myself would not allow my body to recover the way it needed and the rest of my week would’ve been filled with crappy workouts or worse, injury.   And guess what?  As I write this it’s Tuesday and this morning we had a running workout programmed.  Nothing crazy – run a mile, rest four minutes, run 800m, rest three minutes and then run 400m.  I was so excited to get back at it until a few steps into the mile and my legs felt like lead.  Ugh.  So frustrating.  Turns out I’m still not completely recovered from the weekend.  So I had to back it off a bit.  It sucks, but for me this is part of growing up.  Listening to my body (and my coach) and overruling the teenager in my head who wants to go out and push push push.  And eat cookies.  Ok sometimes that teenager in my head wins, but I’m working on that.

Hopefully it’s not news that recovery is important for any athlete, but it becomes even more important as we age.  Why?  As much as we may not want to admit it, as we age a number of changes occur in our bones, cartilages, tendons, muscles and ligaments that can make us more susceptible to sports-related injuries.   If we don’t take the time to properly rest and recover, we’ll quickly notice the typical signs of overtraining and eventually our bodies will shut us down through illness or injury.  One or two rest days now can save us from being forced to take a much longer break later.

So, what are some of the signs that rest is needed?

  • Feeling excessively fatigued or sore
  • ‘Heavy’ feeling in arms and/or legs (Me. Today.)
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor technique
  • Inability to complete simple exercises comfortably
  • Irritability or lack of enthusiasm for the planned training

And, as the symptoms further progress into the land of the overtrained:

  • Increased resting heart rate and increased time to recover from elevated heart rate during training
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Lethargy

All of the above is bad news for anyone trying to crush their training goals.  So, what do we do to help our bodies recover and come back stronger than ever?


  • EAT!  Nutrition is important all the time but we sometimes forget about that on rest days.  While we may be tempted to eat less since we aren’t burning as many calories, now is the time to ensure we give our bodies all that is needed for proper repair.  This includes replenishing carbs, consuming high quality protein and balancing with some fats.
  • Hydrate.  Make sure you are taking in a lot of water and not overdoing it on alcohol or you’ll counteract your goal of coming back rested and more energized.  You may not feel thirsty, but your body needs hydration or your training will very definitely suffer.
  • If you feel up to it, try some active recovery.  Very low intensity movements like walking, light rowing, swimming, a slow jog can help remove lactic acid and stretch you out a bit.  Resist the urge to go hard (I’m talking to myself here)!
  • Stretch, massage, foam roll, roll with lacrosse balls, whatever you need to do to help relax those muscles and keep them limber.  Consider an epsom salt bath if you’re feeling a little bit tight.
  • Sleep. Sleep is amazingly restorative.  Go to bed early if you can.  Take a nap.  Close those eyes and let your body heal and get stronger.

Now, I also want to mention mobility work.  I am one of the least flexible people on earth and it very definitely affects my athletic performance.  To me, mobility and recovery go hand in hand, and while I’ve been focusing this discussion on taking actual recovery or rest days, it’s also extremely important that we take time each day as part of our training plans to work on recovery and mobility.  It’s something I neglect too often, so maybe by confessing publicly, I’ll take my own advice!

“All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.”

– Kelly Starrett

Kelly Starrett is the author of “The Supple Leopard” and founder of MobilityWOD.  He is at the forefront of focusing on the basics of efficient movement so that we can all perform better as athletes, but also so that we can function more effectively as human beings in our day to day lives.  Mobility work is the key to improving those basic movements we are doing wrong and may have already caused us injury, but it is also important for us to maintain our ability to move well as we age.  His site features a ton of videos and “how-to’s” to help with specific issues we may have.  There is a cost for some of these items, but he has also made a lot of videos available for free on YouTube.

Bottom line?  This isn’t likely new information for most of you.  But as masters athletes who thrive on pushing limits, we sometimes need to be reminded about the importance of rest.  We have all set very tough goals for ourselves, but we can’t be savage if our bodies are broken.  Treat your body right and it will reward you with results!

Sources and for more information:

  1. Reaburn, Peter. “Chapter 13.” The Masters Athlete: Improve Your Performance, Improve Your Fitness, Improve Your Life. Mackay, Qld.: Info, 2009. N. pag. Print.
  2. Starrett, Kelly. “Mobility|WOD.” MobilityWOD. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

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