| | | Empowering Your Recovery

Author / Matthew Zanis

If you think that your performance in the gym or on the field is only tied to your best efforts under the barbell or at practice, you’re overlooking the most important part of your training regimen: recovery.

Recovery is the foundation that athleticism is built on.

Too often we focus on how we are going to break our bodies down during the next training session, and not enough on how we are going to rebuild and recover to hit it again. If you’re ready to take training seriously and make bigger gains, the right recovery routine, from compression, to sleep, to active muscle stimulation will help more than any extra sets in the squat rack will. There is no better time than the holidays to get refocused, refueled, and recovered. Read on for the best recovery products to step up your game.

Power Dot

Power Dot is an Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) tool designed to contract muscles forcefully using electrical impulses, in much the same way that our brains send electrical impulses through our nervous system to produce movement. However, this stimulation is not fatiguing to the central nervous system like the end of the PAMC is for most athletes. Using a Power Dot is a win-win proposition, especially if the stresses of life and training over-stimulate an athlete’s nervous system.

As a PT, this also helps me to diagnose problems related to fatigue and injury, in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. After all, a muscle, ligament, or tendon injury is really a “brain” injury. Damage to any tissue in the body also damages the connections between it and the mind, and thus disrupts the brain ability to stimulate proper movement. EMS helps to repair those connections and work through the inhibitions created by the brain’s self-imposed protective mechanisms.

EMS facilitates recovery in a super convenient manner, especially while traveling and training around the holidays. You can apply the Power Dot after training while riding home, traveling on an airplane, or when sitting down watching football after stuffing your face with turkey. It is used to promote circulation, reset tone via neural mechanisms, and keep your body well-maintained when it comes to oxygen circulation, waste removal, and even getting a good night’s sleep.


Many people think that “compression” simply means tight fitting apparel, like the garments all guys wear under their gym shorts when not training in silkies. These garments offer very little benefits, other than the aesthetics visible at most booty short bonanza CrossFit competitions. True, graduated compression gear, like 2XU, have a significant impact on performance and an even greater impact on recovery but…?

For recovery compression, garments need to be a graduated fit to help stimulate blood circulation, for faster muscle repair and recovery. Using the legs as an example, this means the pants being tighter near the calf and getting looser towards your hips. This method helps produce a pressure gradient, pushing lymphatic waste towards the heart to be recycled and recirculated. Wearing lower limb compression, such as socks, can help with circulation when sitting or standing for long periods of time. For example, on long haul flights, compression can help reduce swollen ankles and feet to lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis DVT.

Injured and swollen? Quit fucking icing!! The numbing effect by the ice cuts off the connection from the brain, and thus prevents recovery of the brain’s ability to send hormones to help with the healing process. Swelling is part of the healing process, and is needed to help move the waste out and bring good chemical mediators in to promote healing: this is the groceries in and garbage out phenomena (with the new blood and nutrients getting to the injury, and the waste needing to flush/ moveout).

There is only one way to flush that swelling out, and that is through the Lymphatic System (the body’s system of tissues and organs that help the body remove waste, toxins, and other unwanted). That occurs with time, movement, and compression.

Influences of compression on Recovery: decrease in post-exercise edema, increase in removal of waste products, increased local blood flow, decreased perception of DOMS, decreased concentrations of creatine kinase (inflammatory marker), decrease in muscle oscillations (muscle vibrations or twitching/spasm)
Influences of compression on Performance: increased joint awareness (proprioception), increase in perfusion of tissues (blood flow), increase in muscle oxygenation, increase in skin temperature, and decreased perception of fatigue

Sleep Tools

Sleep is extremely important when it comes to tissue repair, recovery, and even the perception of pain. Some of the best products that help improve your sleep are eye masks, cooling mattresses/sheets, and blackout shades. Here’s why…

Research has shown that when you’re exposed to light at night, even if it’s brief, the level of hunger-inhibiting hormone, leptin, in your body decreases, bringing on those hunger pangs . Also, the blue light emitted by most electronics is inadvisable in the bedroom, as it tricks your body into thinking that it’s still daytime by inhibiting the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is a regulator of your sleep cycle, and when it is suppressed, there is less stimulation to promote sleepiness at a healthy bedtime. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, helping to combat inflammation and making it an integral component of your immune system.

When it comes time to sleep, aim to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Simply closing your eyes is not enough, as light can still penetrate your eyelids. It is recommended to install blackout shades (or wear an eye mask) for this purpose. Additionally, sleeping temperature is key! The optimal temperature for sleep is quite cool, around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in this range help facilitate the decrease in core body temperature that in turn initiates sleepiness.

When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature actually drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Researchers believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop. Sleep naked, turn on air conditioning, and if possible, splurge on a cooling mattress, blanket, or pillow.

Toe Spreaders

What the hell are these? Well, they are pretty self explanatory. They spreads your toes. If you readily get pedicures, these are the little silicone gel tools used to keep safe while drying.

Why Do You Need Them? Today, most people’s feet are weak and dysfunctional, mostly caused by highly marketed shoewear and orthotic companies that do little to optimize foot health. Most shoes are widest at the ball of the foot and get narrower at the toes. But, the human foot is designed to be widest at the tip of the toes. Jamming your foot into a narrow toe box creates lack of space between the toes, creating a bunion angle at the great toe. The tendon on the inside of the big toe then becomes shorted and strong, pulling into more adduction, closer to the other four toes.

We need to restore optimal foot mechanics, including great toe angle, and reclaim your feet! If the big toe goes in, the foot arch collapses. Walking barefoot over a variety of surfaces while wearing toe spreaders and training barefoot can help eliminate plantar fasciitis, bunions, Morton’s Neuroma, and other common foot pain. This also places the foot in the best position to create stability in the arch, leading to strong feet and hips for force production and reduction.

How to Use Them: Start at around 30 minutes of wear and progress based on tolerance. You can even work your feet by wearing them to bed!

Pain Neuroscience Education

Recovery from injury or after a brutal training session is partly mediated by the brain and central nervous system. Perception of pain and discomfort is controlled by a complex interplay of circuits within the brain, based on the context of the situation, emotional status, and assessed level of threat or harm to the body. Am I under threat? Do I need to change my behavior? Is there a NEED for a pain experience?

Adriaan Louw is a Power Athlete Radio alum and author of the book Why Do I Hurt?. In his book, he explains how pain is a universal human experience, 100% of the time produced by the brain. It answers commonly asked questions such as Why do I hurt? Why has it spread? and What can I do to help? Pain is something we all experience at one time or another. When we’ve stubbed our toes as kids, or when we’ve cut a finger or fallen down stairs as adults. But, even though the feeling of pain has been in our lives forever, do you understand what pain really is? Have you wondered why it can stick around for a long time through the recovery process? This is the book everyone needs to read to understand the underlying mechanisms to what pain is and why it occurs. After all, we are human and WILL experience it while battling the bullshit in this life.

Recovery is an investment, just like your workouts. You pay for your training sessions, and you pay for your coaching; to be able to get the most out of your life, you need to invest in your recovery. This comes down to understanding outcome over effort. It doesn’t matter how hard you’re crushing yourself if you’re not allowing your system recover. You work hard, you train hard — and you need to recover just as hard if you want to empower your performance.

Related Content

Power Dot EMS
2XU Compression Gear
Blackout Shades
Sleep Mask
PerformaSleep Mattress
Dr. Kirk Parsley Podcast
Toe Spreaders
Dr. Adriaan Louw Podcast
Why Do I Hurt?
Pain: This Shit is Complicated
Tendinopathy: Dose Dependent Destruction

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Matthew Zanis

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS Former baseball catcher and an avid outdoorsman. Worked with Division 1 basketball, football, and track and field at the University of Pittsburgh, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Cardinals organizations. Received a Bachelors in Athletic Training from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Duke University in 2014. Is board certified in Orthopedics and a Fellow through the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. Is a PT with the United States Olympic Committee and USA Shooting. Currently operates his performance therapy practice in Scottsdale, AZ with Dr. Tom Incledon of Causenta Wellness, and became a Power Athlete Block One Coach in September of 2017.

Dr. Zanis utilizes the Power Athlete Methodology to optimize performance, reduce injury risk, and rehab his clients and athletes through movement assessment, coaching, and individualized program design.

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