When it comes to working out, recovering and resting well are just as vital as the workouts themselves. In this post, I am going to include my top 10 recovery tips and how they can help you to recover effectively.
When it comes to my weekly workout schedule, I have included intensive sessions that are designed to be taxing. A big part of my training is centered around ‘HIIT’ (High Intensity Interval Training) which features regularly in my average week. I tend to change the format by doing cycle classes, body-weight based HIIT sessions and playing football to keep it interesting. However, all these sessions take a toll on the body so it is important to fully recover to make sure your body can cope with the strenuous exercise while being able to go again. So without further ado, here are my top 10 exercise recovery tip:
- Active recovery This is probably one of my favourite recovery tips, can include a light swim/cycle/jog or brisk walk and dynamic stretch or some Yoga. This will help to loosen up tight muscles and promote quicker recovery – for example, the day after a footballer plays a game, he/she will be in the next day doing a ‘cool down session’, on the bike or completing lighter pitch runs (gradually decreasing the pace). These sessions can include some LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio work like those mentioned above (swim/cycle/jog/walk). Ben Smith, the 401 crazy marathon guy who completed 401 marathons in 401 days (http://www.the401challenge.co.uk/ ) would of needed to complete half marathons, daily for a month or so after completing the challenge!
- StretchA post-workout stretch (directly after training) will help to cool the body down and get the muscles back to the state they were in prior to exercising and can also encourage flexibility progressions. These stretches can be held for an extended period, perhaps 30 seconds per stretch. Remember to breathe into each stretch (as you exhale aim to reach a little further into each one). Stretching/mobility work can also be used during the evening/ on a recovery day. After an intensive workout, raising the legs (against a wall for a minute or so, gradually shaking the legs) will help with blood flow, with the aim to encourage clearance of lactic acid.
- Ice Bath/contrast bath therapy The idea of this is to help to constrict blood vessels, in turn flushing waste products like lactic acid out, slow down physiological processes, reduce swelling and tissue breakdown although some studies suggest this is inconclusive. Likewise, times in an ice bath/ contrast bathing and temperature of water are not yet conclusive. Personally, I enjoy a warm to cold shower and feel it helps with recovery (may be psychological), either way, it certainly wakes me up in the morning!
For me, another important one – lack of sleep/proper rest can lead to decreased exercises performance, energy decrease the next day and poorer choices in nutrition etc. I certainly notice the difference, in terms of energy and productivity when I have had a good night’s sleep – 7-8 hours is ideal.
The general nutrition guidance will vary based on the goal of the individual, however, if you have partaken in an intensive workout, a post workout ‘re fuel meal’ is vital for most training regimes. This will help with muscle recovery and to restore glycogen (the fuel reserve that helps to keep our bodies running) levels which are depleted from the exercise, particularly from intensive exercise. The optimal window for the post workout meal will are around 60-90 minutes after training and the meal should consist of Carbs and Protein.
6. Foam rolling/a massage
Foam rolling is also known as myofascial release – this can be used pre workout, post workout or at a later time/ day. The idea is to help reduce tightness, like a self massage and ease out the ‘knots’ which tend to build up through exercise. Find a spot which is uncomfortable (not unbearable) and gently, slowly roll over. A sports massage can also be used and lacrosse balls are great for getting into tougher areas – like the upper back/traps. Good hydration before/after the massage is important as, particularly a sports massage can de hydrate the body. This one leads onto..
Aim to use water as your main source of hydration to aid recovery. Water is a great tool and will help to replace fluids lost during exercise, helping also to flush out the waste products which exercise creates. A hydrated body is a more efficient body.
8.Schedule in a ‘down week’
If you have been in a regular, intensive training routine for a prolonged period of time, a week of less strenuous/less exercise in general is important. This week will leave you feeling energised, recharged and ready to get stuck into your training once again. You will be surprised how quickly you can push on and progress after a ‘down week’. This week should include LISS and relaxing activities, such as reading to stimulate the mind.
9. Listen to DOM(S)!
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) occurs usually 24 to 72 hours after intensive exercise and is a tightness of the muscles from intensive exercise (usually more prominent with new exercises/working the body in a new way). When you get DOMS, focus on not performing similar intensive movements on the muscles which are tight over the next couple of days, allow these muscles a full rest.
Allowing some time to mentally unwind from intensive exercise is important to – reading, listening to music or perhaps even meditation can all be great tools. I’m currently reading Mo Farah’s book ‘Twin Ambitions’ which is an inspirational read, I also often use the meditation app ‘Calm’ which I would recommend for down time!