Fitness: Learn About Recovery and Maintenance

A Schriever Fitness Center recreation assistant performs a Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) upper body exercise. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Benson Oldmixon)
A Schriever Fitness Center recreation assistant performs a Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) upper body exercise. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Benson Oldmixon)

When you’re an aging athlete, you start to feel the bumps, bruises of previous injuries and daily stresses, especially when you’re in a tactical profession. Being a “Tactical Athlete” or “Industrial Athlete” entails daily physical exertion and moderate to high levels of fitness for your own well-being – and you need recovery days. There are some basic tools of the trade that you need to consider for your recovery, maintenance, and mobility. Here is a list of things to do and people to learn from as you progress in years, while staying active in your profession and life:

Gray Cook, physical therapist

Gray created the Functional Movement Screener (FMS), and it's a system of basic movements and balancing that test your ability to move your joints properly. I use it for myself to see if I am over-training. I can typically pass it. However, when I start to fail a certain exercise in the FMS, like shoulder mobility or the leg lift that tests my balance on one leg, I tend to equate that with over-training. I need a couple of weeks of mobility days in the schedule to help me balance this out and be able to pass this test. So that's how I Gray Cook's information, though he uses it for a variety of other reasons – check out his YouTube Channel to see his educational lecture on movement. For more details also visit GrayCook.com.

Kelly Starrett
Kelly runs a program called, MobilityWOD.com. He also wrote a book called The Supple Leopard. It's a great mobility book and it just teaches you how to be flexible and mobile, with some very innovative and creative ideas.

Randy Hetrick

Look into the TRX exercises created by Randy Hetrick, who created the TRX Suspension Training Program. TRX has probably saved my core and lower back as I have agedm and is another way to build a very strong core without all the compression of heavy weights or if previous injuries prevent certain activities. Check out Randy’s YouTube channel.

Tools and Videos: How to Use Them

Some of the tools that we use include TRX, foam rollers, lacrosse ball, tennis balls. The foam roller has been on the market now for a little over 10 years and it's changed many lives as far as being able to continue running, even with some slight tendonitis flare-ups. It enables you to “roll out” the pain and roll out the inflammation somewhat to where you're still able to run with less pain, even no pain. But with tendonitis, that pain always comes back when you're not doing anything. But that's when the foam roller can really help. The tennis / lax balls are smaller ways to roll out pain and tight muscles, similar to the foam roller. For more information look into Myofascial Release. Check out Kelly Starret’s YouTube Channel as a great resource for foam roller, lax and tennis ball exercises and more.

Density of Foam Rollers and Balls (Tennis or Lax)

The foam roller initially was just a piece of foam, so they were a little more pliable, and a little softer; in fact, the more you used them, the softer they got, so you had to get a new one every month if you were really doing it right. They soon evolved into a PVC pipe with some rubber wrapped around it, so it added a little bit of cushion, but it stayed rigid. These will stay rigid for years unlike the foam version of the roller.

With the lacrosse ball, you can really get into hard to roll spots on your back or your foot. A tennis ball is a little easier version of the lacrosse ball, used the same way. Also consider stretching bands. These help to grab onto a limb and help you pull it back a little bit, especially if you can't grab it with your hands.
Other tools for recovery and maintenance health are ice baths or a swimming pool. Aqua jogging and water aerobics for 10-15 minutes is a great way to end a lifting or running workout. Treading and doing all your dynamic stretches in the water and the foam rollers, TRX, and straps are really the tools of the trade for recovery and maintenance. You can add ice baths if you prefer, which will also help with inflammation.

Stew Smith is a fitness contributor to military.com, for more previously written articles on recovery, training, and maintenance for the tactical athlete, see Military.com Fitness Archives. His latest book project is Tactical Fitness for the Athlete Over 40 – Actively Pursuing Recovery and Health Maintenance. (Amazon Kindle | eBook | Book version)

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General Fitness Fitness Stew Smith