Recently a friend asked me what I recommend for a post-exercise recovery drink. “Recovery drink?” I said. “Who cares about that?” The reason why is because I don’t hyper-schedule my workouts, track every run down to the yard or every lift down to the rep. And I don’t obsess over my diet, either. A lot of times, I just kind of wing it, and it works.
To explain why I take this approach, let me ask you some questions: Did you kick butt with exercise today? Did you eat healthfully today? Did you not overeat today? Answer “yes” to those three and the micro issue of things like recovery drinks pale. Unless you’re a competitor. Permit me an additional query: Do you endeavour to shave narrow margins off race times, lift infinitesimal amounts more weight or pose on stage waxed, tanned, oily and Speedoed?
If you answered “yes” to the first set of questions but “no” to the above, then welcome to the club: You’re an average, healthful and physically active person. Congratulations – it’s still an exclusive club. Certainly, there are nuanced training and nutritional methods that apply to competitive athletes. Such details can make the difference between the podium and the middle of the pack. But are you questing for the podium?
Humans aren’t so good at being excellent at a lot of things. We can specialise at a few activities, but not that many. Healthful living requires motivational focus; it takes so much just to be determined to push hard and eat well that for most of us, that’s all we can do in addition to job, family and television. Overcomplicating fitness with behaviour that borders on an obsessive-compulsive disorder with micro-management of sets, reps, miles, times, speeds, calories, nutrient-timing, supplements, carbs and tanning appointments overwhelms the mind and can take all the fun out of it.
There is merit in simplifying exercise: Go hard but not too hard. Go long but not too long. Go frequently but not too frequently. Have fun, then have more fun. In regard to food, just follow what that Michael Pollan guy said – google him.
We’re inundated with marketing on the best ways to optimise fat loss, muscle gain, energy, time, youthfulness, toning “trouble spots” and (insert something about glowing skin here). The information may or may not be science-based, but it’s all complicated. I am a diet-conscious workout warrior, over 18 years running, and part of my extended success at healthful living is not sweating the small stuff. Busted. My wife gave me that sweating book a long time ago.
For the average person, this lifestyle is something you just need to feel. No wonder regular activity and healthful eating is rare. The media, the marketroids and the product purveyors have made it downright stressful. Some of what you’re exposed to is common sense over-complicated, while some is harmful (and over-complicated). It can be tough to tell the difference.
Does this mean you should just wing it? Although you don’t want your focus to be diluted with inconsequential matters, the self-efficacy theory of behavior change teaches us that developing competence and confidence for your chosen exercise builds passionate adherence. In other words: continuing education is a good thing. Quest to get good at something and feel as though you are in harmony with it.
This isn’t me being all new age-y. There is something called the dualistic model of passion in sport developed by researchers from the department of psychology at the University of Quebec. Examining studies of more than 900 athletes, the authors published their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2003. The model states that there are two types of passion in sport: harmonious and obsessive. Those who are in harmony are more autonomous in their physical pursuits. To a certain extent, they do what they feel like. The obsessive ones are more rigid and controlled. Those with harmonious passion adapt to the sport in a healthful way; the obsessive ones enjoy it less and have greater risk of burnout.
You don’t always have to maximize, optimize or synergize. Just push within reason, consistently, learning as you go, and you’ll achieve awesome. You don’t need some expensive protein shake to get there. I did prevaricate about one thing. I do have a post-exercise recovery drink that I love for its simplicity.
It’s called milk.
James Fell is a writer for uk.askmen.com