By Trish DaCosta   Lead photo by SFIO CRACHO/

It's easy to adopt an all-or-nothing mentality when trying to hit our goals, but oftentimes, it's how we manage our recovery time that enables us to reach our goals faster. After all, finding balance in training and recovery is the ultimate way to improve your body’s overall strength, composition, and performance. Here are four proven ways to recover better and faster, so you can set more PRs.

1. Make active recovery non-negotiable.

Active recovery can mean a lot of things to a lot of people: Leisure walks, yoga, binging an entire season of Narcos from the couch, and they are all valid and useful in some way. But in order to maximize your recovery time and improve your strength and physique, recovery should be purposeful and a non-negotiable part of your overall training.

A solid active recovery plan should:

  • Enable your body to repair and replenish after a series of tough workouts.
  • Develop mobility, flexibility, and core strength that your workouts may be missing.
  • Enhance your body’s ability to move with more ease.

Whether it’s through yoga, Pilates, or other kinds of mobility work, finding the right active recovery method for you depends on your personal likes and preferences.

2. Manage your training volume.

As it relates to lifting, training volume is calculated as the total amount lifted in a single workout. In other words, your sets, reps, and load equals to total training volume, and it should change either weekly or monthly in order to progress and optimize your results and recovery.

If you’re always lifting heavy (80-95% of your 1RM), your body can’t recover fast enough between sessions to perform at its best and will eventually break itself down. On the flip side, training too light or with too little volume will inevitably lead to stalled progress as your body becomes accustomed to the workload. (This is why tracking your workouts is so important!)

Here’s an easy way to manage your training volume with the barbell back squat, where each week either sets, reps, or load changes:

Week 1: 5 sets of 4 reps @ 65-75%
Week 2: 4 sets of 6 reps @ 65-75%
Week 3: 4 sets of 3 reps @ 80%
Week 4 (deload): Back squat - 3 sets of 5 @ 60-70%

A few tweaks in your programming can go a long way in helping you set PRs and get the results you want.

3. Eat to perform, not to reward.

How you train dictates how you eat, and how you eat affects your ability to train more efficiently and recover faster. Unfortunately, the majority of women under-eat for their goals, causing a lot of frustration in physique and performance.

At the same time, it’s important to avoid using food as a reward system for being “good” all day or hitting your workout goals for the week. Instead, try a reward system that keeps you motivated or enhances your recovery. Take a night off to hang out with your girlfriends, splurge on the workout leggings you’ve been eyeing, book a massage, or purchase the cool fitness gadget that will enhance your training. There are lots of ways to reward yourself for staying on track and reaching your goals that don’t lead to yo-yo dieting or unhealthy relationships with food.

4. Clock in quality ZZZs.

Even when your nutrition and workouts are all dialed in, sleep remains the single most important factor for your recovery and performance. This is prime time for your body to recover, repair, and restore itself.

The standard 8-9 hours of sleep remains the goal for most of us, but depending on where you’re at with your training or life obligations, you may actually need to take more time off from training and increase the hours of your snooze time. Experts suggest that shutting off all electronics an hour before bed sets the stage for your mind to unwind for high-quality sleep. Other ways to improve your sleep quality include using light-blocking curtains, taking a melatonin supplement, sipping on chamomile tea, and doing a brain dump in a notebook right before bed so you can get out whatever is in your head that might keep you up at night.

About the Author

Trish DaCosta is the founder of Barbell Pilates (, a personal trainer, Pilates instructor, and powerlifter in San Diego, CA. Her mission is to educate, inspire, and motivate women to train with confidence and unlock their body’s full potential through weight training and Pilates-inspired techniques. You can download her free Meathead Pilates Body: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Strength and Flexibility Through a Powerful Pilates Practice here (