Over the past couple weeks my clients have been asking me what the best method of recovery is for between sessions. I’ve decide to write this article to shed some light on recovery techniques I feel gain the best results, all of which you can do in your busy lives. Yay!
People tend to neglect recovery from their sessions because they find it boring. I get it, it’s the same as anything else, if you repeat something for a long period of time without change it become monotonous. However, I hope with this insight the boredom will disappear and you’ll have a new love for recovery techniques.
Working out be it in a gym, playing squash 3 nights a week or going out for a couple runs a week is great. Exercises in any shape or form is better than none. I came across this definition of Exercises “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.” One way we can help sustain and improve our health and fitness is to make sure that we are doing what we can to recover between sessions.
So what methods can you do to help promote recovery?
Soft Tissue Release
Allow me to expand.
If like me you are as tight as a spring ready to pop then you will probably hate stretching too. We never do the things we don’t like and this goes for exercises too. A lot of people have favourite exercises or a favourite exercise routines that they will stick for weeks, months or even years. Forgetting that the exercises they actually don’t like doing are the ones that will give the most improvement and results. Same goes for stretching if you only stretch the muscles you enjoy stretching the body will become imbalanced or potentially even more unbalanced. I tend to try and stretch for 10 minutes a day doing the stretches that I HATE. One stretch I dislike the most must have been invented by the devil himself and that is the glute stretch or in the words of a yogi the pigeon pose. Another area I am really tight in is my mid back, I lay on the floor and bend over a foam roller twice a day for ten minutes. I have found that this has really helped with my posture and the more I do it the better the rewards have been afterwards which for me has been better sleep. So, it goes to show that little and often does pay dividends.
So enough about me why is stretching good for you? Stretching can lead to better posture, alleviate aches and pains and when you start to see results improves confidence. Stretching should be an integral part to your workout and it should be done at the end as it helps loosens muscles, increase blood flow which flushes the body of post workout toxins.
Before you pick up and weights you should always do body weight repetitions of the exercise to get your body ready the coming sets. When playing sport, a dynamic warm with appropriate stretching should be performed as “Dynamic” should replicate the movement of the sport.
“activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.”
Self Myofascial Release
The technical word that you may hear people throw around or read in magazines from time to time is Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and has become very popular in recent years with the introduction of Crossfit.
This SMR is great to do for 10-15 minutes whilst you are waiting for dinner, when you wake up in the morning, when you get back home from work or whilst you are watching the latest episode of Made in Chelsea, (Guilty pleasure). You can use all sorts of fancy tools that would make Christian Grey’s box of goodies look inadequate.
Foam Rolling is by far the most popular and when used correctly is extremely beneficial at breaking up knots in the muscles and realigning those muscles fibres. Correctly aligned muscles fibres help the muscle work at it’s optimal capacity and help reduce injury. The best way in which to foam roll is to use your body weight whilst rolling over the affected area. It’s kind of like using a rolling pin to roll out dough, the more you roll the smoother the dough gets. Well, it’s the same with your muscles. Here’s a great article called the 5 Benefits of Foam Rolling and what exercises to do.
This is a fantastic way to recover from exercise. It’s helps clear the mind, relaxes the body and helps loosen muscles. There are various different types of massage you can get, one of the types I love is sports massage or a deep tissue massage. This type of massage really get down into those problem areas and alleviates pressure in your muscles that may be causing discomfort in daily life.
Massage of some kind should play an important role in the life of any active person whether they are injured or not. Massage has a huge number of benefits and I'll aim to cover a couple here. Massage can help the body stay in better condition, prevent injuries, increase mobility, promote recovery and boost performance.
Massage works but pumping blood and fluid through the muscles to allow nutrients to pass through. It helps remove waste products such as lactic acid, which is the muscles by product of exercise, and allows the muscles to take up oxygen which helps the muscles recover quicker. Massage also stretch muscles fibres and tissue, break down scar tissue caused by repetitive movements, improve tissue elasticity and enhances circulation. As you can see massage is pretty ideal to help with recovery.
Post exercise Nutrition is a huge topic and one that I will go into more detail at a later date. This will be a basic outline of why nutrition is so important for recovery.
You may or may not have head the post 30 minute window after exercise where the cells are most receptive to replenishment, particularly glycogen stores. By taking in a form of fast acting carbohydrates after your training session in the gym, your 5k run, swim or chosen sport you’ll help what’s called muscle glycogen synthesis. This helps your muscles recover quicker. During high intensity or prolonged exercise muscle protein is broken down. Consuming quality protein in your diet after a workout can help with the muscle building process. This goes across the board for both males and females because there is no difference in guys wanting to build muscles and girls wanting to tone. Both goals are classed as hypertrophy and therefore require the same post workout nutrition albeit in different quantities.
Go to bed early and make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis. There are many studies out there that recommend seven to ten hours for most people. Naturally everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle and exercise regime. Sleep is one of the best ways to recover. It helps promote hormone balance, muscular recovery and mental health. Studies show that hours slept before twelve at night and to be more effective than those after sleep.
So what does active recovery actually mean? After you have completed a hard workout your muscles will no doubt be a little tight and tender the next day. Whilst some people may do absolutely nothing at all which will likely make your muscle tighten up even more than they are. The purpose of recovery is to allow the muscles to repair itself and to engage muscles that are tired. With that said active recovery should focus on completing an activity at a low intensity but high enough to allow the blood to pump round the body. On a recovery day with should be your “day off” running at a low intensity for a short duration, go for a walk in the park or try something new.
It’s highly likely that most of us will finish a training session no matter what it is with some kind of fluid deficit. Including drinks like Powerade Zero, Lucozade or even water with a pinch of salt will you on the road to recovery. The sodium in these drink can assist in replacing electrolytes lost through sweat. Rather than just downing a pint of water where very quickly it will pass through your system in a short space of time the electrolytes in these drinks can help the body retain water.
Staying hydrated will not only help with your recovery it can make you feel more alert, awake, improve skin tone, and increase efficient nutrient uptake. If you are not sure how to tell whether you are dehydrated or not a simple test is to look at the colour of your urine. It it’s a pale yellow/clear you are hydrated or if it’s darker than the sun then you are dehydrated and you will need to drink more fluids.
Hopefully these tips will give you an insight into post workout recovery methods. Try a couple and me know how you get on.
If you would like any further advice please do not hesitate to get in touch with me and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
My name is Calumn, founder of CD Fitness Coaching. You’ll find me in and around the gym and helping like minded people get the results they deserve. I enjoy everything from keeping fit, yoga, snowboarding, coffee and making people happy. If you would like to be a part of the bigger community join my Facebook group, Healthy Living With CD Fitness Coaching is a must.