Something that is extremely important in fitness and in sport is recovery. It has a big effect on fitness gains and performance. It is essential to be able to train efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately many people neglect recovery and it is not a part of their fitness routine.
Why is it so important? In order for your muscles and tissues to repair and build strength they have to recover. Especially if the workout session was heavy lifting. On average, your muscles need anywhere from 24-48 hours to rebuild and repair. If you don’t allow your muscles to recover and you put them under stress they will continue to breakdown and cause injury. In other words, you should not workout the same muscle groups two days in row—especially for heavy lifting because of the level of intensity.
Although there are many methods to recovery, here are some general tips to help get you started on an easy and successful post workout routine.
1. Replenish Lost Fluids
You lose a lot of fluid during exercises (especially if you are a sweater). By filling back up that lost fluid after exercise, you’re boosting recovery. Water helps support metabolic function and nutrient transfer, which then improves your bodily function and helps you get ready for the next workout!
Another thing to remember is up to 60% of your body is made up of water! So drink water—not only for your muscles, but for your organs and general wellbeing.
2. Eat Healthy Recovery Foods
After depleting your energy stores from a workout, you need to refuel your body if you expect it to recover, repair tissue, and get stronger. Try to eat something within 60 minutes of your workout that is of high-quality protein and carbohydrates.
3. Rest and Relax
Take a break! After a hard workout, with injury or illness, time is one of the best ways for your body to heal. By resting and relaxing, you are giving your body the chance to do what it knows best.
Resting is not the only thing you should do to recover though. There are other ways to enhance and speed up the process (as are suggested in this blog post), but it’s the most simple way to heal.
Some light stretching to gently loosen any tightness is a simple and fast way to help your muscles recover. Hold stretches up to 30 seconds or for however long you desire. If you are stretching before a workout, keep it under 30 seconds. If it's after a workout, feel free to stretch for however long you’d like.
5. Active Recovery
Sometimes the best thing to do is to move around. Get the blood flowing so the nutrients and waste can be circulated throughout the body. Active recovery is great if you are feeling extra stiff.
Great examples of active recovery are a pool workout, a long walk, an easy bike ride, or a hike. Active recovery can also include mobility; working on better range of motion in an active manner.
6. Massage and Foam Roll
Deep tissue massages are great and can be painful. If you have any tightness or knots in your muscles, a deep tissue massage is great for forcing those trigger points to release. If you aren’t looking for something as extensive, a gentle massage not only feels good, but it is great for improving circulation while you are nice and relaxed.
The foam roller is a third option. Foam rolling is an exceptional tool to deeply massage the muscles without the help of someone else.
7. Ice Bath
By constricting and then dilating your blood vessels with an ice bath, it can enhance circulation and stimulate the healing process. Ice baths are something that many athletes like to do.
Other alternatives that may include the same effects are contrast baths (switching on and off from hot tub to cold tub) and ice massages, which are great for one designated area. Here, you would freeze water in a styrofoam cup and use it to ice and massage at the same time. All of these techniques can help to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.
When you sleep, your body releases a hormone called the human growth hormone. This hormone is responsible for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Sleep is essential for various reasons, but extremely important for those who exercise daily.
Try to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Stay consistent. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Also, any sleep before midnight is said to be the best sleep!
Mentally visualizing and rehearsing your exercises, skills, or day is a great way to calm the mind and helps to release stress and anxiety, control your thoughts, and breathe. Mental recovery is just as important as physical recovery.
For athletes, visualization and meditation helps them learn about their minds and how they work, as well as aids them in preparation for the game. Why not use it for everything else?
10. Do Not Overtrain
We can’t stress this enough: do not overtrain your body! Lack of rest results in muscle fatigue, a negative affect on your fitness gains, and can cause plateaus. Your muscles do not have the time to recover and you are at high risk of injury. Create a detailed workout plan or have someone help you to create a plan that allows for rest and recovery.
All in all, pay attention and listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs. Look out for excessive tiredness, soreness, and decrease in performance. If you aren’t feeling 100%, then recovery is needed. If you are feeling great the next day, then there’s nothing holding you back! Get after it!