June 01, 2015 | John Paul Catanzaro
In a recent interview, Gary Reinl, author of ICED! The Illusionary Treatment Option, discussed the importance of lymphatic drainage. As Reinl puts it, the lymphatic system is basically a draining system taking the garbage out. It’s like a garbage disposer in your sink – it takes garbage in from one end and disposes it out the other end. You have around 165,000 miles of lymphatic vessels in the body and they’re responsible for moving waste out of the body. The lymphatic system is a passive system, however. You need muscle activation around the vessels to move the waste. There’s no pump to do it for you.
It’s important to move the waste because if you let it sit, then “waste can beget waste!” To prove it to yourself, try this little experiment courtesy of Reinl. Do something very physically demanding like a 100-mile bike ride against the wind, and then sit still for a long period of time afterward. The best scenario would be to hop on a 5-hour flight right after your training session. You won’t be happy when you go to get up out of your seat. You’ll be tight, sore, stiff, and miserable!
I had this experience once after performing the “10 sets of 10 reps” method for my legs. It happened near the beginning of my personal training career. As I recall, my time was very limited that day. I had some clients on the road and only an hour to train beforehand. So I did my workout, made a quick shake, and drank it in the car while I drove.
It was rush hour at the time and I sat in my little sports car for a good hour before I made it to my first client, but I got there right on time. I hopped out of the car and as I went to take my first step, I pretty much dropped to the ground! My legs were so heavy and tight and they starting ceasing on me. I was cramping like crazy and there was no pickle juice around!
I crawled to the front door and kindly asked my client for some mineral water. After drowning myself in water and moving my legs a bit, it got better… but for a while, it was agonizing! Let that be a lesson.
Schedule your training appropriately. If you plan to do high-volume training that causes a high degree of muscle damage, don’t do it before a long drive, flight, or meeting. If you can’t avoid it though, there is a way to “actively” rest while you sit. I mention it on page 12 of Mass Explosion and I’m doing right now as I type this. It’s called electronic muscle stimulation (EMS).
EMS provides a massaging effect at low intensities facilitating removal of waste products and delivering nutrition to the muscles through an increase in local blood supply. This enhances recovery and will ultimately improve performance in the gym. Simply attach the electrodes to muscles that were just trained, set the machine to a low-intensity, pulsing mode, and sit for as long as you like.
Many athletes at the elite level recognize the importance of active recovery. A growing number of professional hockey players, for example, will hop on a stationary cycle right after a game for this purpose. They’re not doing it to improve their conditioning; they’re doing it to improve recovery.
The key is to move the muscles without making them tired or sore. Remember, you’re recovering, not training. The intensity should be low, and active recovery should commence shortly after your training session. Waiting until the next day is often too late. Find out why tomorrow.