With time in short supply, it’s easy to overlook recovery. It makes sense that if you’re going to dedicate part of your limited free time to fitness, you want to make every minute count toward your end goal. Sitting in a cold tub, on a massage table or in compression boots hardly feels like work. It’s a lesson many learn the hard way: If you aren’t resting well or actively recovering from your training, you will be injured sooner or later.
Recovery is like stretching and is the overlooked third component of fitness. While cardio burns calories and makes you faster and strength training makes you stronger and more defined, stretching isn’t necessarily going to give you ripped abs or a faster run time. But stretching will help you recover, and you must recover well in order to train hard.
When we train hard, we deplete glycogen. When those stores aren’t replenished, our performance suffers. Furthermore, skeletal muscle damage impairs the ability for blood glucose to aid in repair. Therefore, it’s essential that you look at recovery as preparing your body for battle.
Think of recovery as active rest — part injury prevention, part inflammation response and tissue repair, and part peace of mind. The bottom line is that rest, recovery and maintenance are pillars to your training foundation in the same way that sets, reps and proper equipment are.
Here are six ways to ramp up your recovery:
It’s widely touted that poor sleep contributes to poor health and chronic disease, but science corroborates that sleep also directly correlates to performance. Again, balance is critical. While not getting enough sleep is bad, getting more than nine hours of sleep also contributes to poor health and will leave you feeling groggy for your workouts.
Eat and Hydrate
Besides the work you put in, the most important variable in your training and performance is nutrition and proper hydration. The same goes with your recovery.
Water helps with reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness. Eggs and nuts are good sources of protein that aid in tissue repair. Dark-colored fruits (berries) also accelerate the elimination of waste products.
One of the integral components to your athletic and fitness-related performance is to mitigate stress. The realms of sport and fitness can be fraught with physical and emotional stress, and finding ways to eliminate stress will help you move forward more quickly.
Meditation practice not only can reduce stress but also can aid you in coping with pain, strengthening your immune system and helping you focus. Meditating is even shown to help you sleep better. Try 10 to 20 minutes every day.
Your city may have a recovery lounge that offers many therapeutic modalities (hot and cold tubs, compression, e-stim and laser therapy) to help you repair your musculature. Whether you’re a professional athlete, weekend warrior or fitness geek, regular treatment at a recovery studio will help you perform better. Even one hour a week can help immensely.
While studies vary on the effectiveness of kinesiology tape, you can’t watch an athletic performance these days without seeing plenty of taped-up bodies. Whether the effect is placebo or scientific is debatable, but one thing is certain, athletes feel better using kinesiology tape. When it comes to mobility, range of motion and simply how you feel, kinesiology tape is a worthwhile tool in aiding recovery.
Periodize your regularly scheduled maintenance. To best prepare for each and every season and fitness goal, you must periodize your programming. Changing your routine into specific periods should include proper and regularly scheduled maintenance.
As your workload increases, so should your scheduled maintenance. Having the right maintenance practitioner can help you assess your needs and recover properly. A skilled practitioner (chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, reiki master, etc.) might just be the missing ingredient in your training.