How do you make improvements in athletics? It’s not during your workouts. So then when does it occur?

I put in a lot of work on this track. However, my gains occured while I was recovering from the grueling workouts.

I put in a lot of work on this track. However, my gains occured while I was recovering from the grueling workouts.

You may read the title and say wait a minute, Pavan has really lost it. Is he really audacious enough to posit that improvements do NOT occur during workouts? YES I am.  Do not get me wrong, workouts are a vital step towards achieving your full potential in athletics however, they are NOT everything. So if it is not your workouts where improvements occur then where do your improvement occur? It’s during your recovery time in which improvements occur. This occurs for a whole host of reasons, which I will not delve into in this post (but a future posts will talk about specific ways to modulate things in this cycle to speed recovery), but it is absolutely vital you internalize this concept.

I never understood the importance of recovery during my high school career and it is what single handedly halted my progress towards achieving a life long dream of playing division one basketball and worst of all it sapped my intrinsic love and joy for the game of basketball. As I began my collegiate track and field career I thought I had understood this concept but I really hadn’t until our Coach Gabe Sanders (follow him on twitter @CoachGSanders) gave an absolutely inspiration speech after probably one of my hardest practices during my entire career at Boston University.

During the pre-season in the Fall it is almost a rite of passage for the new members of the team to complete the “Summit” workout. Summit Avenue is a really long and steep hill in Brookline Ma. However, a hill does NOT do justice to the absolutely monster that summit avenue. If you live in Brookline or surrounding areas I implore you to check out Summit Avenue if you want a great workout.

Sometimes the coaching staff is feeling generous and lets us just finish workouts with a lift. However, this day we also had a tempo pyramid of 100-150-250-150-100. Afterwards all of us were absolutely spent. We finished our 3 hour marathon workout as a team completing a general strength circuit. Afterwards we were all laying in the infield (tennis courts) in the Track and Tennis Center when Coach Sanders began to address the team. I was absolutely floored by what he said.

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“Hey I am really proud of you guys today, but you did NOT get better from today’s workout. The workout does not result in the improvement. You are going to run faster, jump higher, and become stronger by appropriately recovering from the workout. It’s the small things, such as making sure you get enough sleep, eating enough food, spending that extra 5-10 minutes foam rolling and/or stretching that will allow you to improve.” 

It was not until this moment that I truly internalized the importance of recovery. The fact I only understood this 7 years into my athletic career is what motivated me to write this post. It seems so counter intuitive in today’s day and age that taking a step back and taking time away from what you want to be great in will actually help. Society conditions us to believe that we have to constantly be doing more and more otherwise we are being complete sloths. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Recovery is the most important aspect of any training program. 

To further re-iterate the point he made in his speech Coach Sanders sent another very uplifting email accompanied with the video below. However, I was stunned why such a profound video was not more popular on YouTube. Then it hit me that people would much rather watch one of the typical motivation pump-ups which gets one feeling super pumped to go out and accomplish their task. However, that is just a feeling, and like all feelings it is just a fleeting experience and will not fuel sustained excellence. Like the video below re-iterates it is the small tasks day in and day out that lead to success. Most important are the small tasks that ensure that you are adequately recovered that will allow you to maximize your athletic potential. This concept is very similar to what is extolled in the compound effect, and if you have not read it check out the book review of it here.

Be Happy and Chase your Dreams,

Pavan Mehat

PS Here are a couple of ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address.

Pavan Mehat’s LinkedIn

Pavan Mehat’s Instagram

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