Fitting Workout Recovery Time Into an Officer's Schedule
This series of emails comes from a police officer / instructor who understands the importance of recovery, but has a hard time fitting it into his training plan. We all need to actively pursue a recovery period in our high tempo training cycle, otherwise we will break down, burn out, and likely get injured over time. Here is his email.
Stew, I know it’s important to have some kind of periodization to come off of high rep calisthenics and intense cardio routines in order to recovery. But what if you need to stay in high levels of endurance and have a high aerobic output for the demands of your profession? For example, being a cop. I have to stay in fighting performance levels…for every day of the year…especially as a defensive tactic instructor. My life depends on it because I’m always “in the playing season”. So for the sake of recovery, and wanting to gain some muscle mass in the off season, how do I effectively deal with the above problem, when my profession demands that I stay in “in season” shape all year long? Whenever I’ve tapered, I’ve found myself getting slow and de-conditioned, which I’ve felt every time I had to wrestle someone to the ground or chase someone.
ANSWER: When you recovery it does not mean that you get out of shape or in your case fighting shape, it just means you change something in your training to allow for joints to recover, muscles to grow, and any injuries to heal. This can be as simple as replacing running with a non impact option like swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical gliding for example. Or it can be a 4-6 week cycle of lifting moderate weight in place of high repetition calisthenics. But there are a few things that MUST remain a constant for you to see results from any recovery period: sleep and nutrition. If you are missing out on 6-7 hours a night of sleep and/or skipping meals or eating poorly, you will quickly have the same symptoms of over-training – even without training hard. You can maintain a high level of fitness for long periods of time as long as your nutrition, hydration, and sleep are in order.
One thing is for sure, it is just a matter of time that you will break down if you do not recover. For me personally, when I was in my 20’s, I stayed in top shape year round and the only thing I changed was decreased running, added more swimming, and replaced cals with lifting. I did this in the winter to put on some weight for cold water dives, but stayed in top shape. Once in my thirties and now forties, recovery has to be part of your planning. Every meal you eat is for recovery from the last workout / hard day and to prepare you for the next one. Every minute of sleep you get has to be good enough to allow your body to grow and heal.
After four years of high rep calisthenics, super sprint bouts, long dist cardio, and full contact MMA training, I’m starting to feel the wear and tear. I’m also never able to focus on gaining some bulk, which is essential for becoming a breacher / entry-man.
ANSWER: I would just change it up. When you are not teaching a group of trainees for a week or more, take a few days off from MMA workouts. Having down time should not degrade your performance in your job if done right. In fact, it will make you perform better. It may simply mean you have to really focus on nutrition – eat well so you can maintain a high op tempo.
So in your case:
1 – focus on good eating – see ideas at www.stewsmith.com/linkpages/abdnutrition.htm
2 – Recovery – www.stewsmith.com/linkpages/recovery.htm (mix of hydration, nutrition, sleep)
3 – Workout – make a small change to help you with things that wear you down like running (impact) and high reps (joint pain). I still workout hard even though I am “taking it easy from high reps”. I swim or bike vs run for cardio and I lift moderate weight for medium reps (8-12 reps) when lifting weights vs high rep calisthenics.
Let me know if you think this might work for you. I would like your hear your response…Stew
Thanks Stew…….The most difficult thing for LE is, unless you work swing shift, your going miss sleep. At least in our city (between court, mandatory hold-over, and family needs) you’re often getting by on 2hrs of sleep for the shift. We suck it up, but in terms of recovery, it is a set back especially when you are on a jury trial which lasts for several days in a row.
Nutrition is something that really stays consistent for me. I try to pack a lunch and the wife and I are big on clean eating. Hydration; I always have a water bottle on me. Changing the Workout. Now that seems to be tricky for me to. I have come to a place where I’m pretty much letting go of the typical “Mon-Fri” workout schedule.
I’ve thought of making my workouts fit my life schedule. What I mean is maybe training hard on days I know I’m going be getting good sleep the night of. If its going be a 2hr night, in my car, waiting for court in the AM, then I may skip training that day or do something light. This just makes it impossible to stay consistent on WO’s like your Navy Seals, 12 weeks to BUDs or the SWAT workout (which I have both and often can’t keep up on due to the scheduling issues and lack of sleep).
What do you think of this? These are the only issues I see that may need to be addressed, at least for most of the guys I work with. Thanks for all your help Stew!
ANSWER: Yes sleep is your biggest killer and it was ours too in the SEALs. To be recovered enough to perform, you have to make sure you are not overtraining with workouts AND eat perfectly. Adding more water and amino acids from protein (all kinds animal and nuts) will help you with your recovery even without much sleep. BUT in the long run the lack of sleep will break you down. So get some sleep victories when you can each week. I have long stopped the Mon-Fri workout routine and have found I can get my harder and longer workouts done on Saturday and Sunday after a good night’s sleep and usually before my kids even wake up. Then, I take a few days during the week when I am busiest as my days off.
I like to do a workout BEFORE a long work day or perhaps a quick weight room lift or cardio in the middle of a 18-20+ hour day. It really helps wake you up and increases performance when your body naturally wants to slow down. That is why it is hard to go to sleep after a workout usually – it speeds up the system. I hope this email volley makes sense and will help you with your training and the way you think about training over the course of the year.
Good luck with your training programs. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.