Recovery from training is something majority of us neglect, but it’s such an important factor we should all consider making it a “must do” after each training session, competition or event. Inadequate recovery is so important, not just for elite athletes, but for the everyday athlete too! A fact a lot of people are unaware of, is that muscle growth and improved fitness is influenced just as much, if not more by rest and recovery, than actually exercising or training. So while training is vital to good health and longevity, recovery should never be overlooked.
So we would assume that without a doubt, you have pulled up sore, tight and achy after a training session. This is known as DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) and occurs usually a day or two after. Here are some tips and strategies you could incorporate into your routine post and pre-training.
HYDRATION! Exercise and an increased metabolic rate both increase the body’s need for water and electrolytes. It has been suggested that the minimum amount of fluid intake per day for males is 3.7L/day and 2.7L/day for females. Hydration plays a big part in repairing our muscles. Exercise causes muscles to become stronger by first breaking them down and then rebuilding them using muscle protein synthesis. This protein synthesis, however, requires that muscles are well hydrated. If you are dehydrated following a workout, the protein synthesis that rebuilds muscles will be slowed and subsequently will delay your recovery from the workout.
SLEEP! You’ve probably all heard how important sleep is. During sleep, our hormonal secretion is one of the most important factors influencing recovery; after all, the purpose of sleep is to induce a state of recovery in the body so that the muscles can repair, rebuild, and strengthen. Anabolic (muscle-building) hormone concentrations and activity increase during sleep while catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormone concentrations and activity decrease.
CARBOHYDRATES! Did you know that Carbohydrates are the muscles major source of immediate energy; therefore, eating carbohydrates is essential at refueling your body’s glycogen stores. Your body refuels glycogen at a higher rate within 30 to 60 minutes post workout so it’s important to consume a post-workout snack or shake during this time. Along with carbohydrates, eating potassium-rich foods among other nutrients like sodium, calcium, and magnesium are key minerals which play a role in muscular energy and aid in repairing damaged tissue post exercise.
MASSAGE! Everyone loves getting a massage but did you know that it can reduce muscle stiffness, promote circulation and induce a state of relaxation in the muscle. In addition to massage, you can get yourself a foam roller and self-massage, or Self Myofascial Release. It might be painful during, but SMR can be performed the night of a hard workout to remove scar tissue, adhesions in the muscle and restrictions in the fascia (a type of connective tissue that wraps around the whole body). You could even roll a baseball, golf ball or massage stick over all major muscle groups until you find a sensitive spot. Apply direct pressure until the pain dissipates and you feel the muscle release. Roll over the muscle again and repeat if necessary. Even if massage doesn’t speed up recovery completely, it will definitely make moving your sore body easier in the days following a hard session.
STRETCHING! Now while stretching hasn’t been proven to actually improve muscle soreness and aid recovery, it does help to restore the body to a more neutral state. During a workout, repetitive muscular contractions occur, leaving your muscles in a shortened state afterward. Stretching specific areas that may feel tight after a workout can aid in lengthening those muscles out and easing that tight feeling in the body. Stretching may not be the most beneficial thing you can do after a workout, but it is definitely not the worst thing you can do. We recommend it!
ICE BATH AND WATER THERAPY! Although during winter it isn’t too appealing to jump into an Ice Bath or use Water Therapy (alternating hot and cold shower), it has been shown that doing so can assist in faster recovery, reducing muscle soreness and preventing injury. The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly constricting and dilating blood vessels it helps to remove (or flush out) waste products such as lactic acid in the tissues. If you don’t have a tub to fill with ice or access to an ice bath try this. While taking your post-exercise shower, alternate 2 minutes of hot water with 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat four times with a minute of moderate temperatures between each hot-cold spray. This is known as water or contrast therapy and can have the same benefits of having an ice bath!
Incorporating some of these into your daily post-exercise routine will hopefully help aid in a better recovery. Try some out and let us know how you go.