Recovery has become a buzzword in fitness over the last few years, but what does it really mean?

Does having a higher recovery score mean you can train hard and a lower recovery score means you should stay at home?

Is the best way to recover faster to just rest and get more sleep?

To get to the bottom of what recovery is and how Morpheus works, we have to go back to two things we talked about in yesterday’s lesson: stress and energy.

How the body adapts to stress (and why it’s so important)

At the very heart of fitness (and survival itself) is the concept of adaptability.

In simplest terms, adaptation is the process the body goes through to become more fit to handle the demands of its environment. In the wild, this also means it’s better equipped to survive.

This is how training works.

By lifting weights, doing cardiovascular conditioning, practicing a skill, playing a sport, etc., you are creating a specific environment that your body has to adapt to.

You lift heavy weights, it gets stronger. You run long distances, it gets more efficient. You practice a specific lift or movement, your technique gets better.

This is nothing more than the body’s adaptive mechanisms at work. There are two parts to this process: stress and recovery.

When you’re training, you’re putting your body under stress.

This means your stress-response system is working hard to crank up energy production. The more force and power your muscles produce, the more energy they need.

Once the workout is over, that’s when recovery begins.

The most important thing to understand about recovery is that just like stress, it’s all about energy.

In this case, the body needs energy to repair and rebuild stressed muscle tissue. To add new mitochondria (the power plants of our cells). To create and reinforce the neural pathways that improve our technique and skill.

This use of energy is what we call recovery.

In other words, recovery is the process of using energy to adapt to the stress of our environment.

When it comes to fitness, it’s this process that turns the workouts we do into improvements in strength, power, hypertrophy, body comp, skill, and performance.

The problem with recovery

Your body is constantly through periods where it’s put under stress, followed by time where it can recover from that stress. This is what we call a stress-recovery cycle.

In a perfect world, you’d have all the energy you need to fully recover and adapt to each period of stress.

You’d make constant improvements in your fitness. You’d never feel tired, run down, or lack the motivation to get off the couch. You’d never get sick.

The problem is that we don’t live in that perfect world.

In the real world, our bodies can only produce a fixed amount of energy each day no matter how much we eat or sleep.

The mental stress of life can add up quickly. We can convince ourselves that we need to do one high intensity workout after another.

It can be all too easy to put our body under more mental and physical stress than it has the energy to adapt to. When this happens, we put ourselves into a recovery debt.

If a recovery debt is small, it most often leads to frustrating plateaus where you’re putting in the work, but not seeing any improvement. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people in fitness get stuck.

Over time, if the balance between stress and recovery isn’t fixed, the body will fight back.

You’ll start to feel more fatigued all the time. You’ll be less motivated to go to the gym and more likely to get injured if you do. You’ll crave foods you know you shouldn’t eat.

Sound familiar? Almost everyone that’s trained hard has experienced this at one time or another.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to prevent all this…

The Morpheus recovery score

A lot of people have been led to believe that a low recovery score on an app means that their body can’t train hard or perform well.

They are often confused when they get this low recovery score even though they feel just fine. Or, they are surprised when they choose to train hard anyway and then hit a PR.

The reason this happens isn’t necessarily because the recovery score is wrong.

It’s because no matter what anyone tells you, a recovery score is not a predictor of what your body is capable of, or how well it will perform at any given time.

Instead, the most accurate way to understand a recovery score, particularly the one Morpheus gives you, is as a gauge of the balance between the amount of energy you’ve been spending on stress vs. recovery over the last few days (or longer).

If your recovery score is low on a given day, it doesn’t mean that you can’t train hard or put your body under more stress.

It just means that if you do, it’ll take even more energy and even longer to fully recover and adapt to all the stress you’ve been throwing at your body lately.

Getting yourself into debt recovery doesn’t happen in a single day.

It’s when you continue to add stress on top of stress, without allowing enough time and energy to go towards recovery, that bad things happen and you pay the price.

When your recovery score is consistently low, it’s a sign that your body has been spending more time and energy dealing with stress than recovering from it.

Because it’s when your body is recovering that gains in fitness are being made, this also means you’re leaving results on the table.

Using the Morpheus recovery score to help guide your training is the key to understanding the difference between what you can do on a given day and what you should do over the long run to reach your goals.

Over the rest of the challenge, you’ll learn more about how all the different areas of life, from sleep, to nutrition, to mental stress, impact the balance between stress and recovery.

Action step

It’s a relatively new idea in the research that our bodies are limited to producing a finite amount of energy in a 24 hour period, but it has profound implications.

The story of how this was discovered is a fascinating one leading back to a hunter-gatherer tribe in Africa called the Hadza.

To learn more, look up Dr. Herman Pontzer and read the story of how he developed this new theory called the “Constrained Model of Total Energy Expenditure”

To truly understand fitness, you have to understand the concepts of stress and recovery.

That’s because training is nothing more than a specific type of stress, one that stimulates the body to improve its fitness.

Recovery, on the other hand, is how that improvement in fitness actually happens.

On the surface, getting in better shape is easy.

You put the body under stress through training and then allow it to recover and improve. Over and over again.

The reality, however, is that it’s more challenging than it sounds because stress and recovery both come back to the body’s most important resource: energy.

How stress works in the real world

Today, when people hear the word stress, they most often think of the mental side of it.

When we talk about being “stressed out”, it typically means we’re overwhelmed by finances, school, family, and everything that life is throwing at us.

These things certainly can be stressful, but there is much more to stress than just how we feel psychologically.

To truly understand stress, we have to understand how it works physiologically, i.e. within the body itself. This is where energy comes into the picture.

To see what I mean, let’s do an experiment…

Take a minute and use Morpheus to measure your heart rate. You can do this through the TRAIN feature using either the M5 band, or the M7 chest strap.

Once you see your heart rate on the screen, I want you to close your eyes and think of yourself in a situation that you personally find extremely stressful.

Maybe it’s being covered in spiders, or snakes, or speaking in front of hundreds of people, looking over the edge of a cliff, skydiving, etc.

Whatever it is, focus on it for at least 1 minute and then open your eyes and look at your heart rate.

Chances are, your heart rate will be noticeably higher than before. This is because just thinking about something stressful causes your body to activate what’s known as the stress response system.

This is also often referred to as the “fight or flight” system. In biological terms, it’s the sympathetic nervous system.

The connection between stress and energy

The important thing to understand is that when your heart rate is higher, it means your body is producing more energy.

An easy way to think of what stress is, then, is anything that causes our body to increase energy production.

In other words, stress is a reaction by the body that can be caused by something physical, like a workout, or something purely mental, like a phobia or just dealing with life.

In both cases, our body’s stress response system is activated and our heart rate goes up.

The reason this happens is because biologically speaking, our bodies are hardwired to respond to anything in the environment that we find stressful, whether it’s real or imagined, by cranking up energy production.

For animals in the wild, this extra energy can often be the difference between life and death.

Training might not be a matter of survival, but when we’re working out, our bodies need a huge amount of extra energy compared to being at rest or just walking around.

You can see this by looking at how many calories are burned in a hard workout relative to how many your body uses in an entire day.

The reason this is so important when it comes to fitness is because energy is a limited resource.

Our bodies can only produce a finite amount of it each day because it takes time to turn the foods we eat and our bodies energy stores into the ATP molecule our bodies run on.

In tomorrow’s lesson on recovery, we’ll explore how this energy limit is the single biggest reason people fail to reach their fitness goals despite putting in the work.

More importantly, we’ll talk about how you can use Morpheus to make sure recovery doesn’t limit your success.

Action step

To get a better idea of just how stressful mental stress can be, put on either the Morpheus M5 or M7 and try to drive your heart rate as high as possible purely by thinking about something stressful.

At the same time, to get a preview of what we’re going to cover in tomorrow’s lesson, spend a few minutes trying to relax as much as possible and see how much you can drop your heart rate as well.

Welcome to day 1 of the Morpheus 30-day Recovery Challenge.

Now that it’s officially started, let’s talk about how you can get the win!

To get as many points as possible and give yourself the best shot at claiming the top spot, there are 5 things you’ll need to do consistently over the next 30 days:

– Measure your HRV to get a recovery score each day
– Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night
– Be active enough to get 7,000 steps (or more) each day
– Incorporate at least 2-3 recovery workouts into your weekly training
– Complete the daily lesson and apply what you learn

If you do your best to check each of these boxes over the next 30 days, you’ll be on the path to the top.

You can see exactly what you stand in each of these areas by clicking on the “Scoring” tab next to the leaderboard.

The reason you’ll be rewarded with points for each of these is because they are all an incredibly important part of improving your recovery.

You’ll also be able to unlock bonus points by hitting streaks because consistency is a major key to success in fitness and that’s what this challenge is all about.

Our goal is to help you take the next step in your fitness journey by unlocking the power of faster recovery and smarter training.

Over the coming days, you’ll learn a lot more about what recovery really is, how it’s related to stress, and why the 23 hours outside the gym have such a big impact on whether or not you achieve your fitness goals.

By the end of the challenge, whether you win first place or not, you’ll know exactly how to connect all the dots to drive meaningful (and sustainable) improvements in your fitness, health, and performance.

Action step

By completing this lesson, you’ve earned points in the challenge!

To get more, all you have to do is make sure to take an HRV measurement so you can get a recovery score, and then hit at least 7,000 steps a day before getting a good night of sleep.

Finally, before tomorrow’s lesson, your homework is to take a few minutes to write down the answer to two important questions:

1) What is your single biggest fitness goal? In other words, what motivates you to get up, go to the gym, and put in the work day in and day out?

2) What is the main obstacle keeping you from reaching that goal?

Write the answers to these two questions down because we’ll refer back to them as we progress through the daily lessons.