Recovery. The one word that is imperative to the ultimate success of an athlete or any gym go-er, and the one thing that can stop you from reaching your goals if you choose to ignore it.
Believe me, I have learned the hard way to always make time for recovery. There are 4 aspects to recovery that anyone and everyone who is lifting weights, jogging faithfully, or hitting the aerobics classes needs to know.
If you are serious about putting on muscle or just leaning out, you will need to invest in a good foam roller. These devices allow for you to break up scar tissue and stimulate blood flow to speed up healing and quicken recovery. This is called self myofacial release techniques.3 They are easily learned and performed at home or in the gym so you don’t have to visit a chiropractor every day of the week after a heavy workout. By purchasing a $15 foam roller, you could save hundreds of dollars a year in doctor and chiropractor visits. These foam rollers are sold at some grocery stores across the U.S, but mainly can be found at sporting good stores across the nation. You can find them in 1 foot or 3 foot lengths based on what areas you are trying to focus on.
It is recommended to roll out your muscles during your warm up and cool down for every workout. Focus on troublesome areas, or any areas that you will be using more than others during your programming. You should spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes on rolling out your muscles for each workout you complete during the day. Faithfully following this rule will ensure you prevent any unnecessary injury and speed up the healing of any torn muscles you may have.Warming Up
Believe it or not, inadequately warming up your muscles before putting them through a strenuous workout can do more harm than good. How many times have we showed up to the gym in a hurry, only to blast through our workout and make it home without ever completing a warm up or cool down? Warming up your muscles before a workout is also contributing to not just your workout today, but your workouts the rest of the week.
The more you consistently warm up your muscles every time you workout, the better your body will respond not only to your workouts, but to the time it takes for you to heal. Improving circulation is a key factor in this. Blood brings new oxygen and the nutrients our bodies need all while removing waste.2 Warming up and foam rolling will get your blood moving and start your body on the way to healing. You need to participate in a warm up lasting at least 10 minutes to get your muscles nice and warm to perform their best during every exercise program. This will also prevent unnecessary hurt or injury but will also allow you to push yourself harder and allow you to accomplish more had you not warmed up.
If you’re struggling to find a quick warm up, always think about what you can do to get your heart rate elevated and muscles warm. You can do this by a number of movements but you may need to be particular based on what you are doing that day in the gym. If you are planning on lifting weights or doing strength work, you will want to incorporate some of that into your warm up. You may consider rowing 500 meters combined with banded pull ups or strict pull ups, push-ups, arm circles, hip circles and jogging ½ mile. Remember that based on the area of focus you are working most, will depend on the areas you warm up the most.Nutrition
It is very important to take care of the physical aspect of recovery, but equally important to focus on nutrition. Make sure you are drinking enough water2, and using the correct supplements to aid your muscles in recovery so they can bounce back fast. When drinking water, aim for consuming one half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. If you walk around at 200 lbs., you will need to consume 100 ounces of water per day. This can seem like a lot at first!
Don’t think you have to start out drinking that many ounces of water, it can seem daunting. Start slow and drink when you can. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink water you may already be dehydrated. Get yourself a good water bottle or blender bottle that you can take everywhere. Have it with you when you wake up in the morning, take it to work with you at your desk or work -space and then to your workout, and right with you to bed. Water is an amazing resource that our bodies not only need to function, but it is a vital part to recovery. Unfortunately along with sleep, it is the first thing to go when we get busy.
You will also need a solid protein powder that wont stack on the carbs and will still give you gains in the process. Lets face it, the last thing I want to do after a tough workout is go home and prep and cook a big meal. This is when I love to just grab a protein shake. I recommend ALLMAX Isoflex protein powder.1 This is a solid powder that blends well, and is not full of all of any hidden chemicals or additives that you don’t need. It comes in a variety of flavors some of my favorites being strawberry and peanut butter chocolate. In addition to a post workout shake, more perfect post workout snacks can also consist of 1 banana, 1 plain rice cake with peanut butter and ½ sliced banana drizzled with honey, Chocolate Milk, or 1 apple and some raw almonds. You will find that as you consistently nourish your body after each workout, your body will respond well and reward you with healing and energy to get you through the rest of your weekly workouts.Sleep
Sleep is one thing our bodies need that we can get the least amount of without trying. No matter who you are and what you do for a living, I can guarantee you do not get enough sleep. Sleep is the first thing to be sacrificed when our lives get busy or we have more on our to do list than we can handle. The average person needs between 7-9 hours a night to function optimally.2
When we sleep, we are recharging our batteries. Our central nervous system which controls our muscle contractions has a chance to refresh and rejuvenate through a good night’s sleep.5 The more rested you are, the quicker your reaction time will be in a workout and the faster your muscles can repair and heal themselves.
In addition to this benefit of getting in enough sleep, our bodies hormone regulatory system can work at its optimum level as well. By not taking the time to recover fully, we are taxing our bodies and increasing our level of stress hormone. Only when we rest can our bodies adapt to the physical demands we place on it.4
So what can you do with all of this information? Track! Many athletes and gym-goers keep a track or log of what they eat, but this can also be very helpful to our recovery as well. Keeping track of when we roll out, stretch, cool down, and how many hours of sleep we get a night, can open our eyes to our actual schedule and allow for changes where we may not have seen them needed before. This can ensure that we are always taking care of our bodies and ensuring adequate recovery practices are taking place.References:
1. ALLMAX Nutrition. (2018). Retrieved from allmaxnutrition.com
2. Andrews, R. (2018). All About Recovery. Retrieved from precision nutrition.com
3. Dixon, R. (2017, July 18). Foam Roller Therapy Exercises. Retrieved from www.sprotsrec.com
4. Frank, K. (2018). Boosting Recovery: Solutions to the Most Common Recovery Problems. Retrieved from precision nutrition.com
5. Smith, B. (n.d.). 9 Things every athlete needs to know about sleep and recovery. Retrieved from mensjournal.com