How a Fitness Instructor With a PhD in Public Health Prioritizes Recovery

When it comes to fitness, Shauna Harrison can do it all. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd and a trained yogi, a professor at Johns Hopkins with a PhD in Public Health and a badass fitness instructor who’s been featured everywhere from Shape to Yoga Journal to The Huffington Post. So when it came to getting the 411 on the importance of recovery, we knew exactly who to call. 

Here, she talks to MOLECULE about why she’s so passionate about recuperation, simple recovery moves that everyone can make, and why we’re all spending too much time on late-night Instagram.

Sleep is “everything”

“At 41, there's no way I could do what I need/want to do without letting my body recover,” says Shauna. Because of this, she takes her sleep extremely seriously and prioritizes it as a key component of her fitness journey. “It's imperative. It's a must-have. It's everything,” she says. “Sleep is the time when we are really allowing our body and mind to rejuvenate. Without it, I risk injury, acute illness, chronic illness, mood shifts, mental health breakdown and so much more.”

The number one mistake her clients make? Showing up unprepared

Shauna knows that there are lots of ways to sabotage your own workout, but the number one mistake she sees people make is that they don’t show up to work out with their head in the game. What does that look like? “That can mean skipping the warmup or not warming up properly,” she says. “It can mean showing up without having recovered from the previous training session, it can mean showing up with a lack of fuel or hydration to support the training.”

These issues might sound minor, but she warns that they can lead to major problems. “All of these things are just asking for a sub-par session at best and for injury at worst.”

No more late-night group texts

The link between quality of sleep and quality of workouts, Shauna points out, is “incredibly apparent.”

“There's not one point of output that's not affected by sleep. Power, strength, speed, mental game—everything is impacted,” she says. So why aren’t we all sleeping a perfect eight hours every night? “It's easy to prioritize many other things over sleep: Netflix, going out, Instagram scrolling, hours-long group texts, etc.,” she says. “I think it's the number one thing we ALL get wrong.” In other words, it might feel painful in the moment, but for the sake of your health, decline that last cocktail, shut down Netflix, log out of Instagram, and tell your friends you’ll send back the perfect meme response in the morning.

Recovery doesn’t have to be an indulgence

For Shauna, you can’t be a fitness freak without taking recovery very seriously. “Do all the things. Whenever you can,” she says. “If you have the means/accessibility, I'm a huge proponent of chiropractic care, acupuncture, float tanks, infrared saunas, functional medicine, massages, and basically anything that helps my body feel good when I put it through all the stuff that I consistently do.”

She understands, though, that not everyone has access to an infrared sauna. But that doesn’t have to mean skipping recovery altogether. “I know time and money can often be a hindrance to some of the more expensive forms of recovery,” she says, “but making sure you refuel, rehydrate, stretch, add in movement or mobility throughout the day, myofascial release—all are things that you can do without spending too much money.”

So whether you’re chilling out in a float tank, hopping up from your desk for a stretch and a glass of water, or just turning off your phone to avoid the lure of Instagram before bed, make like Shauna and get your head in the game, even when you’re resting.

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