How do regeneration methods work?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what recovery is, why it’s so important, and how it’s connected to your lifestyle, it’s time to dig into some popular tools and methods promising to help you improve it.

Over the next 10 lessons, I’m going to help you separate fact from fiction and dig into how to incorporate regeneration strategies into your overall recovery program.

To get things started, we need to talk about the basics of how all regeneration methods work to begin with.

Relaxation vs. stimulation

Although all the biological processes and mechanisms around adapting to stress are incredibly complex, the basic principle underlying efforts to speed up recovery is quite simple.

It all comes down to getting the body to expend less energy dealing with stress, i.e. turn down the stress response, and spend more energy on recovery by turning up the recovery response.

This means shifting the body away from a sympathetic state to a more parasympathetic state.

While there are almost endless strategies to achieve this, there are generally two different approaches. They can be defined as either relaxation or stimulation, depending on the immediate effect they have on the body.

The goal of relaxation methods is to cause an immediate decrease in sympathetic activity.

These types of methods generally revolve around things like mindfulness drills, meditation, breathing, float tanks, and soft tissue therapies.

During the activity itself, the goal is to drive heart rate down and HRV up.

This is an indication that the body is turning down the stress-response system and shifting more towards a recovery state.

The other path is stimulation.

In this case, the concept of hormesis becomes important to understand.

This concept can be best summarized by a 16th century alchemist named Paracelsus, who was one the first to write about it when he said:

All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.”

What this means is simply that the body often responds to the same thing very differently depending on the dose. This is particularly true when it comes to the stress of training.

The right amount of training can increase your fitness to almost unimaginable levels compared to where you started. Too much training, however, can leave you broken down, injured and less fit.

This same concept applies to stimulation types of regeneration methods.

They work by putting the body under a relatively small amount of stress in order to trigger the body to then activate the recovery response afterwards.

Things like recovery workouts, cold plunges, contrast therapy, the sauna, etc., all drive heart rate up when you’re doing them. This has the added benefit of increasing blood flow, another key part of recovery because it drives oxygen and nutrients into the tissues.

After you’re done with these types of methods, you should see a decrease in heart rate and feel increasingly relaxed in the hours following.

The key here is the dose.

Too much of any stimulation method can cause too much stress and slow down recovery rather than speed it up.

Do a recovery workout for 90 minutes straight or spend so much time in the sauna that you become dehydrated, and you won’t do your recovery any favors.

Where do regeneration methods fit in?

The use of regeneration methods can be incredibly powerful when they are incorporated correctly, or a waste of time (or worse) when they’re not.

With so many tools and tech popping up all the time, it can be tempting to buy into the hype and go all-in on a single method.

But just as with training itself, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or single method that always works, all the time, for everyone. The key is to be strategic about when and how you use regeneration strategies.

This is where it becomes hugely valuable to use Morpheus to:

A) evaluate how well your regeneration methods are working
B) build a personalized regeneration strategy

In the coming lessons, we’ll cover exactly how to do that.

Action step

Are you using any regeneration strategies now? Have you used any in the past?

If so, make a quick list and see where they fall in the categories of relaxation or stimulation.

This will help you choose the right methods as we talk more about putting together your personal regeneration strategy.