Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a tough workout. But, especially when starting out the muscle aches a mild inflammation that follows an intense strength-training session or a sports match can be, well, a pain.
While recovery is a popular subject these days, it’s more holistic than it sounds. It’s not just what you eat after you workout or just a quick stretch after your workout. Recovery happens between your sessions and within your lifestyle as a whole. What you do before, after and even during your workout matters
Olivier Dupuy, PhD, associate professor of exercise physiology at The University of Poitiers in France believes recovery is as important to a training regimen as the workout itself, explaining, “It’s a period when your body adapts to training sessions; insufficient recovery may lead to overtraining … good recovery is a key area to success.”
Recovery is an active process and these five strategies ensure you’re making the most of every workout and optimize your fitness goals:
1. Keep moving
Yoga, stretching and walking are all forms of active recovery. Integrating low-intensity exercises can help expedite recovery and reduce muscle fatigue and post-workout soreness. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that engaging in 6–10 minutes of active recovery was linked with improved athletic performance.
2. Get sleep
You already know the amount of time you spend sleeping has an impact on your performance levels. Sleep is also essential for recovery.
Your body secretes hormones during sleep that help your muscles repair, build bone, help lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation. According to researchers at the London Sports Institute. One study found that lack of sleep made it harder to repair damaged muscle and replenish glycogen, the fuel in your muscles. The general recommendation for sleep for adults is 7-8 hours. Athletes need additional sleep for recovery, as much as 10 hours per night.
3. Take a cold bath
Sinking into a bathtub filled with cold water might make you clench every muscle in your body but it can also help reduce inflammation, feelings of fatigue and muscle aches.
“[Cold water immersion] reduces the overall time needed for recovery,” explains Lance Dalleck, PhD, associate professor of exercise and sport science at Western Colorado University. “Cold water helps decrease core and skin temperature, which … may aid in mitigating the inflammatory response in the tissue affected during training.”
4. Get a massage
One of the most effective recovery strategies is also one of the most relaxing. Getting a massage helps reduce tension in the fascia, bands of connective tissue and muscle fibers themselves, helping ease aches and pains.
One study showed a 20–30-minute massage increased blood flow to the muscles, reducing muscle soreness for up to 96 hours after exercise; massage also decreased perceived fatigue among elite athletes.
5. Get serious about post workout nutrition
By now, most people understand that the foods they eat after their workout and throughout the day factor into the quality of their recovery. The foods you eat before a workout can also play an important role in pre-empting the tissue-rebuilding process once the workout is over.
Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout. I recommend consuming your meals roughly two hours prior to your workout to avoid digestive issues or cramps