I'd do all my stretching and exercising and then when the day came to jump off a 16-stair, it was like jumping off this [points to a 3-foot-tall barrier].
– Andrew Reynolds
This page right here is the first in a series on skateboarding recovery. If you’re constantly aching or feeling stiff, always with low energy, just “not feeling it”, or those days after the session are a struggle, or you’re just looking to get stronger and improve your skating, then this series is for you. If you thought recovery was just sitting back with a beer and some ice on your foot, you’re going to be pretty surprised by what’s to come in this series because in reality, recovery is more of a lifestyle that incorporates everything from the physical to the mental realms.
I’m super hyped on this series, there’s a lot of banging information that I'm going to share that I hope is really going to help your skating and how you feel!
what is recovery?
So first let’s go over what recovery is and what’s the point of it. Every time you go skate you're using certain systems in your body to power your sessions and for lack of better words – “wearing them down”. You’re going to burn through your energy tanks, your muscles might take some damage, or maybe you’re going to get mentally stressed from slamming endlessly on a trick. Recovery is the process of restoring all of these systems back to how they were before your session; bringing your body back to the same state it was in before you skated. Recovering fully is super important because what you don't recover will accumulate, and as a result you’ll start feeling and skating worse, along with the chances of injuring yourself shooting up.
When we talk about recovery we’d also be missing a massive piece of the picture if we didn’t also talk about something called adaptation, which is the process of your body adapting to what you spend most of your time doing so it can do those things better and more efficiently. You wouldn't be able to get better at skating, or anything at all if it wasn't for adaptation. It's what makes your body stronger, what increases your pop, what makes you more consistent, along with a load of other changes. Your body doesn't know what's good or bad though and it can change pretty fast, below is an an example of how it can work both ways:
Let’s say you’ve been off your board for a few months cause of an injury, you’ve been doing rehab exercises to rebuild your strength and balance, etc, but you haven’t been skating. When you eventually get back to skating you might feel weaker, run out of energy faster, or just not feel as on point as you used to. This is because your body’s adapted to not skating, it's got used to not needing to supply a lot of energy to charge your sessions, or generate power to pop your tricks, along with the fact that the newly repaired part of you doesn't even have any idea of what skating is yet. As a result your body won't be able to skate as efficiently as before your injury and will hit its limits quicker. The classic saying "you lose what you don’t use", is completely true. However, because the body is such a boss and deep down has your back and wants you to keep skating, it will instantly start thinking “Shit, this takes a lot of effort! I need to get better at this!”, and behind the scenes, in between your sessions, will strengthen and improve the systems required for skating, making itself stronger and more efficient so it can better handle the stresses of skating better, and just make life easier for you.
This is one of the amazing things about the human body; it adapts and becomes better at almost anything it practices, and although this is a natural process of your body, you still have a massive impact on how fast and well it recovers and adapts. In this series you're going to learn how to optimise your body to recover better and faster so you can skate more and feel better whilst doing it.
Note: from now on when I say "recovery" I'm talking about the whole recovery-adaptation process.
So recovery isn't only about what you do right after your session, in fact if you haven't done things beforehand to prepare your body for skating then what you do after won't have much of an impact. To get the full recovery package we’re going to split it up into 3 different sections: Preparation, Repair, and Reinforcement. In this article I’m just going to do an overview of the different sections and then over time add separate articles and videos for each part that builds up each section, but it will still give you a decent idea of how you can start becoming a recovery beast!
The preparation phase is the foundation of recovery and the most important part. This phase is all about what you do before you skate, where you lay down the foundations so your body has everything it needs to recover and adapt as good as possible. Not only does someone who’s prepared physically and mentally recover faster, but their body can withstand more, meaning less to recover from. The things you've got to have on point in this section are:
good health – Straight out the gate, point number one will probably cause the biggest problem for a decent amount of skaters – you’ve gotta be healthy. This means you’re moving well without pain, recovered from any injuries, you’re not sick or with fever, you’re at a good weight, etc.
fitness – You also need be fit enough to skate. This doesn't mean you have to become some fitness master that blasts out star-jump routines in the park, it just means you need to have enough strength and flexibility for skateboarding, along with a body capable of providing enough energy for your sessions. It's just a fact that the fitter and stronger you are, the faster you'll recover, and the more your body can withstand - reducing the toll skating takes on your body.
nutrition – You need to be on top of your nutrition meaning you're staying hydrated everyday, eating enough, and eating a healthy balanced diet that supplies your body with all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, power your sessions, and recover. Check out the skate nutrition series for a big load of food knowledge that will keep you healthy and skating well.
T-Puds taking a snooze
sleep – It's no accident your body evolved to need sleep; sleep keeps you healthy and functioning optimally. It's also one of the most important aspects of recovery for both the physical and mental realms. Having a regular sleeping pattern of 7-9 hours of good sleep a night is what the average person needs for optimal health and recovery. You can go a few nights with poor sleep without affecting your body's ability to generate power but you'll start losing focus and skating will just feel like it takes more effort. There's also research out there showing those sleeping less than 6 hours a night were more than x4 more likely to get sick. Head to the sleep and skateboarding page for more on sleep. Or check out 5 tips for better sleep.
planned rest – Planned rest means planning days off so you're giving your body the time and space it needs to recover. I understand that planning doesn't really go hand in hand with skating and will often be impractical but just try and be aware that your body needs a certain amount of time to get back to 100%. If you're going to be out on a heavy filming sesh at the weekend, the day before you could plan a day off or go for a chilled session. If you're out dropping hammers every day you might be feeling like a boss but your body is probably gagging for a break, so getting in days off each week is key. Also, if you work out, do other exercise, or have a physically intense job you need to think about how all of these things influence each other.
This is the post-session side of recovery and where you’ll find most the things that are normally related to recovery. It’s here where you’ll start repairing any damage you might have done to your body during your session and restoring things to how they were before you skated. Before I go on to describe this section it’s important to mention that if you haven’t got the things in place from the preparation phase then things in this section aren’t going to make much of a difference.
First off some things that you should do every session:
nutrition – Start off by rehydrating those fluids you've used during your session. Next up you need to eat something with carbohydrates and protein to restore your energy tanks and start repairing any muscle damage. Timing and restocking your body's electrolytes (certain minerals important for your cells to function) can also be important in certain situations, but head over to the post-session nutrition section for everything you need to know about nutrition after your session.
cool-down – Doing some kind of cool-down to bring your body back into a relaxed state will aid recovery. You can do anything you'd like to get this job done: cruising home from the spot, or maybe some light stretches, whatever works for you to enter chill-mode. Check the stretches for skateboarding page for a load of stretches for after you skate.
rest – Obviously you're going to need to rest after your sessions. Maybe you just need a night’s sleep, maybe you need a couple of days off, or a day off and a more chilled session. There isn't really anything that will tell you exactly how much rest you need so you'll have to gauge this on how you feel/how intense your session was.
These next things are optional and might add an extra little sprinkling of recovery juice to your recovery sandwich. You won’t have do the same things every session, maybe some days you'll foam roll, or maybe after a super gnarly session you'll jump in an ice bath like Walker Ryan talks about in his interview on The Daily Push.
foam rolling – Rolling around on a foam tube is a good tactic to speed up recovery and reduce muscle pain. Sounds crazy but it's been shown to reduce muscle pain and speed up recovery. Check out the foam rolling for skateboarding page for more.
pain reduction – If you took some seriously heavy slams and you're hurting a lot you can whack some ice on your throbbing spots. Science seems to be pulling away from ice being beneficial for repairing damage but it can still be a decent pain killer.
mental – There was some research done on rugby players who were shown either good or bad footage of their play after a match and the one's shown good footage recovered faster. Your brain responds similarly to real events, memories, or even imagined events so just thinking about good parts of your session - or if you had the worst session of your life, just making them up - could help speed up recovery. Thinking positively about something you've done can also help you learn that thing better, so it might help you lock in some tricks too.
placebo – The mind is a crazy little specimen and the power you have over your health and life by just thinking something works or thinking positively is pretty amazing. So if you think something helps you recover, the truth is, even if it helps no one else, it actually might help you. If you're certain that massaging yoghurt into your toes gets you back on your board faster, then by all means keep on doing it, it's probably helping.
cold water immersion – If you've had a super intense session and you need to recover fast then jumping in an ice bath might help you out. The only problem is you might need to be standing up in the water for it to be fully effective as the water pressure might have a big role to play. If you don't end up paying for the reconstruction of your bathtub into a vertical one and settle with a standard ice bath, don't do it on a regular basis as it can slow down your body's ability to adapt over time. Save this one as a last resort. The general agreement for time and temperature seems to be about 10-15 mins at 10–15°C.
active recovery – Active recovery means doing some kind of light exercise after some other exercise to improve circulation and speed up recovery. It's pretty popular in the sports world and it sounds good in theory but there isn't a lot of research showing it has a big effect. So if you find it works for you keep at it, otherwise you're probably not missing out on much.
compression – Some research shows that compressing your legs with some pants like the "tights-like" ones Nyjah's been repping recently might help reduce muscle pain, but like with active-recovery, there isn't a lot out there showing they enhance recovery.
So the final section is the therapy section. This one's all about reducing the accumulation of physical and mental stress so you don't push your body too far, along with adding some extra little exotic enhancements.
de-stress – The more stressed you are the slower you're going to recover, and it doesn't matter if it's physical or mental stress. Stress across the physical and mental realm accumulates and influences each other. If you're super stressed because of things like work or school, or maybe you're stressing because you've gotta film a video part, this mental stress will also negatively impact your body's ability to recover from your sessions. Chronic stress also increases your chances of getting sick and just straight up dying too. If you don't deal with your stress (physical/mental) and you let it accumulate without bringing yourself back to baseline you're going to drill your body into the ground and massively increase your chances of getting injured. Making an effort to de-stress on the daily is an important part of becoming a recovery machine. Things like meditation, chilling with mates, or maybe reading 50 Shades of Grey in the bubble bath can be good options; whatever works for you.
check yo'self – This part is all about being aware of the changes in your skating and how you feel. You’re never going to be able to avoid bad days, but if you feel fatigued or you're skating badly for multiple sessions in a row, it's probably a sign that you're missing out on some aspect of recovery. Maybe you haven't been sleeping good, eating good, maybe you need a few days off, etc.
food enhancements – Just like Yaje Popson said in his interview with The Daily Push - you can heal yourself with food. Certain foods have healing properties that will speed up and enhance recovery, along with reducing the damage skating takes on your body. Foods like berries, leafy greens, omega-3, along with certain herbs and spices like curcumin are just a few of the boss foods out there. Man, even monching on beetroots have been shown to enhance athletic performance. Natural, healthy foods really have everything we need to thrive.
It might seem there's a lot there and well I guess there is, but it's not as difficult as it might seem and once you've made things a habit you won't even need to think about them. Just to summarise everything - the 3 steps are:
1. Lay down the foundations and give your body everything it needs to handle skating.
2. Restore your body to how it was pre-session, repair any damage and kick off the adaptations.
3. Keep facilitating those adaptations by making sure you don’t stress your body too much and push it too far.
Start off by sorting out the parts of the preparation phase and you'll start noticing some big differences in how you feel. Like I said I’m going to be doing separate articles/videos for each thing in each section to expand on it and give you more info on how you can integrate it into your recovery sandwich.