After a tough workout, event, race or training cycle, nothing is more important than proper recovery. Lots of time and effort is spent prepping an event and how you take care of your body after that event can dramatically change to way you feel over the following days. Recovery is especially important during hard training, a race season or a series of event because proper recovery helps prevent injuries.
Recovery isn’t the same for every person, or every event. The ultimate goals of proper recovery are to replenish what you’ve used during the activity, repair the muscles you’ve damaged and finally to rebuild them. What to do for recovery and how long to spend doing it depends on what you’re recovering from. A light dose of cardio is going to need a much less stringent recovery routine than racing a marathon, but both are putting strain on your body and require attention. Not recovering properly, or enough, can lead to overuse injuries like stress fractures, shin splints, tennis (or golf) elbow and runner’s knee. Keep in mind that if the injury ends with a –tendonitis (or just an –itis), it’s probably an overuse injury. The best way to prevent overuse injuries is to give your body the things it needs to recover properly right after, a few hours after and for days after a workout.
Immediately after you exercise, your muscles hurt. They’re tired and stiff, partly from lactic acid build up. Stay moving after you’ve finished your workout to give that workout byproduct time to be removed from your body. Stretching, foam rolling and walking are great ways to help your body along. You can also use ice, ice baths, or cold water immersion right after a tough workout, game or race. Cold therapy can reduce swelling and the breakdown of muscle tissue by constricting blood vessels and reducing metabolic activity, both of which help your body get back to normal.
After loosening your muscles, it’s time to replenish fluids, give muscles the protein they need to repair themselves and your body the complex carbohydrates it needs to fuel that muscle repair. You’ve probably seen plenty of people finish their workout and pop open a sports drink or protein shake. These pre-made drinks contain fluids, protein and carbs your body needs to recover and should happen within 30-60 minutes of wrapping up a session to be most effective. The good news is you don’t need to spend tons of time and money finding one you like. Water is the best way to refill your empty fluid tanks, while low-fat chocolate milk will not only give you fluid, but the protein and complex carbs your body wants. High quality, low-fat proteins, like chicken and healthy complex carbs, such as sweet potato, are wonderful post workout choices.
You stretched, you drank, you ate and now it’s time to rest. Your body uses the time between workouts to recover, and it’s important to take time off to let your muscles take care of themselves. Whether you’re training for an Ironman or just getting back in the gym after a long hiatus, some the best rest you can get is sleep. We’ve touted the many benefits of sleep before (right here) and its importance can’t be overstated when it comes to performing at your best.
For help with your recovery routine, email us! Info@FitNicePT.com