The Three “R’s” Rest, Recovery and Regeneration: Part 1

Exertion can come in many forms; physical, cognitive and emotional to name a few. Exertion is a critical aspect of life. We can have differnet levels of exersion. Think of the original Borg Scale of 13-20 when categorizing perceived exersion duirng cardiovascular exercise. We can apply a value or rating to any form of effort, exersion or experience. Think of a hike, bike rider, social situation or experience that you have had recently and rate it.
You could use the score of one for a low intesity experience and a 10 for the highest intensity experience. For example sitting quietly on the couch day dreaming might be a one for you and skydiving might be a ten. Of course we can track every component of our workouts in this manner if we choose.
On a given day we might subject yourself to different intensities of resistance training, cardio, core (and so on) workouts. The stress or exersion is where we often experience the richest parts of our lives. I can think of when my children were born, those were some of the most intense feelings that I have ever experienced in my life. The highest of most wonderful highs for sure. I can also remember the physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion that came over me as I started to come down from these experiences. It pushed me to the edge of my known emotional capacity. Just like making it through a challenging spin class, CrossFit W.O.D. or completing your first marathon, there is more there than we probably know.
We go up to and sometimes past our known limits. These are the times when we experience the necessary overload or stimulus to create new adaptations and experience richer and more intense experiences from there. The thrill of competition, the joy of victory, the exhaustion of physical exercsion, all good stuff! But when we put that much out, we need to take some time to build our reserves back up.
This is what some might call recovery or rest. I will use the distinction that rest is passive and recovery has an active component. When recovering you eat something, drink something, go to get a massage, ride an exercise bike at  low intensity, apply some self myofascial release, perform some flexibility techniques on a vibration platform, use some hydrotherapy-you get the picture. I have heard others cataegorize some of these actives as regeneration techniques. You could classify recovery techniques as strategies that are employed immediately following a bout of exersion or exercsie. The window of opportunity to maximize recovery from exersion is opew widest for approximately 60 minutes. You might also hear the term regeneration, not like the Lizard Man from Spiderman , but how we go from able to return to our daily activities to starting to develop adaptations to the stimulus that you just introduced your body to. You might utilize some of the same techniques during both recovery and regeneration, the differentiation is when they are applied. For the purposes of this post I’ll stick with recovery occurring 0-60 minutes post workout and regeneration occurring between 60 minutes and three days. Of course, you can rest anytime during either of these processes.
The original topic for this post was hydrotherapy for post workout recovery. Specifically the useage of steam rooms and saunas. Hydrotherapy involves the use of water for pain relief and treatment. The term encompasses a broad range of approaches and therapeutic methods that take advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure, for therapeutic purposes, to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain disease according to Wikipedia. Now the use of ice and heat is often referrred to as modalities in the physical therapy world. We’ll leave those to techniques out of this conversation.
As I started to do some research and type this I found it difficult to focus in on just those two subjects without first adressing the larger topics of rest, recovery and regeneration. To cover that I think I would need to write a few chapters in a book on performance training or at least a short stand alone book. So I have bene putting this off for probably a few years.
Why put this together now? The biggest motivating factor was the trip that I am on the way back from. I had the opportunity to workout this past week at an amazing, and I mean amazing, club in Rotterdam in the Netherlands called Wellnesslande
The club was on the outskirts of the city, on the edge of suburbia. It was built up in a small and very nice technology center which abutted a residential area. It was designed and built from the ground up. It was in a four story building complete with a rock climbing wall, cafe, five tiered spin studio, mind-body studio, sport performance room, group exercsie room, golf room, wellness /personal training studio, complete line of Life Fitness cardio equipment, complete lines of Life Fintess Circuit series and Signature series equipment, select Life Fitness Cable Motion pieces, Selected Life Fitness plate loaded equipment, a near complete line of Hammer Strength MTS equipment, the Life Fitness Synergy/360 XL, free weight, core, vibration training area, and “wet area” that included a pool, two hot tubs, one steam room, poolside showers and more!!!! This was a showcase for Life Fitness sicne their European headquarters are right around the corner. The attention to detail, quality, craftmanship, service, music and the entire experience was one of the best I have ever had. Truely op notch. Their “wet area” was unreal. It was well throught out and well planned. Here is a small detail, the showers had no tempaerature adjustment, simply a  push button and the water comes out warm at the perfect termperature for about 60 seconds. You know what it’s like when you get out of the pool and you’re a little chilly and the first few drops of water are cold? This water came out just right….the temperature of the pool, the room, everything was designed with painstaking effort and focus on the customer’s experience. This is a picture that I took of the pool. The windows on the top are actually a glass floor by the lobby.

In addition to “playing” in every room except the spin room I visited the hydrotherapy room the each day that I could. On two of the days I started in the hot tub, then moved to the dry sauna and finished under the old bucket of cold water. The suaunas pretty much looked like this.

And the steam room had some L.E.D. mood lighting.
On the other day I went from the hot tub, to some sort of open heat lamp section then on to the steam room and finished with the sauna and cold bucket treatment.
The two hot tubs were different depths, one 70 cm and the other 80 cm. The two dry saunas were held at differnte tempratures, 70 degrees Celsius and 90 degrees Celsius. I spent about 25-30 minutes in this area of the club at the end of each workout or just visit to the club. I was fortautne to have the time to do some rolling and stretching before hand as well and stayed well hydrated. I felt like a million bucks after these treatments!
I also of course did some strething in the hot tub as well. I was feeling pretty banged up from the flight over, a fall I had at my son’s hockey practice and some of the workouts I did while I was there. One thing they did not have was a cold plunge which I always love using!
There is limted literature on the benefits that steam rooms and saunas provide for the purposes of health, athletic performance and recovery. Most of the claims are impirical and based on old world thinking. which is fine with me. I like evidenced based information as much as the next guy but sometimes the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy works well.
Remmebr the old Simpsones episopde with the personal develomet guru that came in and got the town on board with his teachings? The Red hot Chili Peppers made a guest appearance on this particular show.  I used to be a huge Simpsons fan, but I digress…
Let’s call it a night there.
Back with Part II later this week.
“You stay classy San Diego!”
Eric Beard’
Corrective ExerciseSpecialist
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