I think my first exposure to infomercials was the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie. I can distinctly remember seeing it shown on TV where all you had to do was pop a full chicken in the cooker and in the blink of an eye (with a little TV magic) you had a sumptuous looking, golden brown chicken! All you had to do was, “set it, and forget it,” which was the tagline of the Showtime Rotisserie and a phrase that was frequently shouted out by the audience with vigor only matched by that of Price Is Right contestants. So what does good recovery protocol have to do with a mid-day, “who the hell buys this stuff?!” infomercial? The answer: set it, and forget it.
When it comes to recovery practices consistency is key. Whether it be trying to improve mobility, return from injury, improve energy levels, or eat more nutritiously, consistent practice is crucial to seeing progress. While the quick fix or magic pill may be the sexy and alluring option it will rarely be a lasting one. A good general rule is that the faster something is supposed to “fix” or “cure” a problem, the faster it will probably disappear too. Bodies take time to adjust and create a new “normal,” and therefore taking a long view approach to changing the body is best. Sustained effort and quality of practice, as well as a healthy and appropriate dose of quantity, are more productive focus when it comes to moving, sleeping, breathing, and overall recovering better.
What this philosophy ultimately boils down to is a focus on the process rather than the outcome. When pursuing better nutrition, improved sleep, solid hydration, better mobility or returning from an injury it is best to prioritize measuring and highlighting the STEPS you’re taking on the way to your GOAL, rather than purely the goal itself. Often, measuring the outcome, or goal attainment, can become an exercise is frustration as progress may not be happening in the speed we’d like. When this happens it becomes tempting to cut corners in an effort to reach the desired outcome. Instead, it is important to be consistent in your approach and trust the process that you’ve chosen, relying on your experiences, emotional and physical, to guide your practice, not the outcome being sought.
Here is an example of focusing on steps vs. goals from my own fitness journey. I have less than ideal ankle mobility on my right ankle from many years of twists, rolls, and sprains, and I’d like this to improve. One option, the goal oriented option, would be to do a bunch of drills every day and test my ankle mobility daily for a week and see if it is improving. Chances are good that, yes, to some degree my ankle mobility will improve. But, if all I was after was the outcome of better ankle mobility, then once that is achieved I would be done working on it, motivation would wane, and I’d have no further need to make it a priority. However, as I only really worked on this goal for a week it will probably not lead to lasting results. Also, if progress doesn’t happen as fast as I would hope I may become frustrated and scrap the pursuit entirely. This outcome is very possible, as several days may not be enough time to truly see a change, and when comparing results day-to-day it can feel like no true progress is occurring since the body hasn’t had time to adapt.
Option two, the step based option, is to implement ankle mobility drills to my training and prioritize doing them for two weeks without checking whether or not they are making a difference for my ankle. This will allow me to trust the drills and process I’m utilizing, be disciplined in effort, and put my focus on how the practice is feeling internally rather than what it is affecting externally. After two weeks though I’m going to check in and test my ankle mobility to see if the drills I’m doing are working, after all there is an outcome component to this process. If improvement is happening and my drills are working then that’s awesome and I’m going to keep doing them! If there isn’t a positive change occurring however then it’s time for a new drill or approach. In two weeks I’ll repeat this process.
This step-based process can be applied across the spectrum of recovery protocols. The basic idea is to pick a goal, identify steps, set your approach to taking those steps and begin implementing them often! A good measure of consistency would be to hit your process behavior (drinking a certain amount of water, sleeping a desired number of hours, or practicing a mobility or recovery drill) 5-6 days a week. And allow yourself some slack here! Yes, 5-6x per week is optimal, but by no means is it the rule for success. If, say, practicing your recovery protocol 2-3x a week initially is what you’re capable of then that is great, and you can be very proud of yourself for that! Approach those two or three practices with focus and over time work to increase their frequency. Set your goal, and then forget it! Instead focus on measures within your control, namely your behaviors and your attitude. Before you know it you’ll have attained your goal.