We love having Sam Rooney as a #PremaxAthlete, he’s an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and performance coach, with over 10 years of experience within the industry. He has knowledge of both sides, having worked in a clinical setting, with elite athletes, and playing sports himself at a representative level. This level of involvement and understanding made him an exciting person for Premax Founder & CEO Randall Cooper to sit down with and talk in depth about recovery, and get to the truth behind some exercise myths.

As an Exercise Physiologist, how do you tackle recovery with your clients?

There’s so much information out there, so many products, ideas and concepts getting thrown in our faces, that I think we’ve forgotten the tried and tested methods that we know are key to recovery. Ironically, they're often the easy, simple and free things that we can do. There’s an old saying: “if you want to fill a jar with rocks, you need to start with the big ones first”, and the same thing goes for your recovery. There's no point in doing specialized, expensive methods if you're not doing the basics right, which for me, first and foremost, is sleep. I think probably 99% of the population, whether they're athletic or not, could use more sleep, around seven to nine hours, or even more if you're training hard.

Then there is nutrition. Again, this doesn't have to be anything fancy: it's just eating well and adequately hydrating. Everyone knows that these three things are important, but people often forget them, or don't quite realize the actual impact that they can have on performance, on recovery, and on your overall health and wellbeing.

Sam Rooney

What are some of the practical tips to ensure a good night's sleep?

It's a lot to do with the individual. Some people’s schedules mean that they don't get much downtime, and then it's not as simple as less caffeine before bed or less screen time, but how can we actually make more space for your sleep. Equally, I don't think people realize the effects that caffeine, screen time, or stimulation will have on your quality of sleep. The general advice would be, after about 2:00 PM you want to avoid caffeine and stimulants, and then for screen time about half an hour to an hour before bedtime is when you need to be switching off.

You can use that time to get yourself ready for the next day, or as wind down time, reading a book, meditating, stretching. Everyone has an individual version of meditation. It’s just the ability to slow yourself down, which is really undervalued. You should also be keeping a dark room, and if there are streetlights nearby, get blackout curtains or add extra blinds. It will actually make a huge difference, and will allow you to get into a deeper sleep, which you need to recover and bounce back the next day.

Sam Rooney stretching

What about nutrition?

To me, eating shouldn't be over-complicated. While they do have their place, one key issue with protein bars or powder is that although they may have good quality protein, there’s a lot of nutrients that you miss out on but not eating wholefoods. You’re not getting the micronutrients you would from eating salads, fresh fruit and vegetables, and more balanced meals. Nutrition should be simple. Use the food pyramid to create your base, and get plenty of carbs, plenty of protein, and a good bit of fat throughout the day. Once that is set, you can then work to properly dial your nutrition based on your training needs.

There's no point in adding supplements into your diet until you have a good base and an understanding of your macro and micronutrients. From there, if you want to go down the supplement route, remember it should only do that, supplement, not replace. If you know you need a specific extra nutrient, that's when supplements can become valuable. But in relying on them alone, you miss out on a lot of other important nutrition which makes us perform and recover.

What are your thoughts on an active recovery?

I'm a supporter of active recovery, as long as it’s done right. The benefits of active recovery itself includes getting more blood flow to the working muscles, to help deliver nutrients you've consumed to the area that needs repair. The opportunity to get fresh blood through tissue or joints is a key factor, and as a result you're going to get rid of some of the soreness and metabolites which will enhance the recovery process.

Particularly in Sydney, and potentially elsewhere, there is a bit of an industry trend around active recovery. These can be quite intense sessions, and probably go a little bit too far, and can actually detract from training and performance. My general guideline on active recovery is to do a low intensity activity that leaves you feeling rejuvenated. Swimming is my preferred method, but I understand that not everyone gets to live by the beach. Instead, you can cycle, stretch, do yoga, or even walk. Whatever gets your body moving, and whatever you enjoy is a great place to start. I also think that the mental aspect of having an enjoyable outlet after performance or training is really beneficial, and probably something people don't really think about enough.