Here are the top 5 recovery methods that I recommend to my athletes. You MUST train hard, and recovery hard! Keep in mind, these are mostly high school and college age athletes that are often at the mercy of their school schedule. I also am not in the business of recommending any supplements to younger athletes. Here are some healthy ways to recover your body and restore your muscles!
- Food. Its simple, when they are done working out, they have to eat a protein source. Muscles are made out of proteins, without consuming any quickly (in the first 45 min after a workout, the earlier the better) muscles won’t grow. Its like trying to build a log cabin without wood, just doesn’t make any sense. The body needs protein to build muscles. On top of that, eating quality meals with a protein source, carbohydrate, and additional vegetable will help your body feel better after training. Ever eat fast food after a hard lifting session? Your muscles will be feeling it the next day. I’ve done it with pizza, not pleasant. You’ve already done the hard wok in the gym, don’t sabotage yourself in the kitchen.
- Self-Myofascial Release and Active Release Techniques (ART). This includes foam rolling which I have posted about extensively (Foam Rolling), using a lax ball, theracane, the stick, or any other massage tool. When a muscle stretches, near the point of injury, the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) tells the muscle spindles to relax. Foam rolling stimulates both the muscle and works the GTO so the athlete can work in a more complete range of motion without the muscles shutting down. Also, ART techniques have are helpful in fixing soft tissue adhesion and dissipate scar tissue buildup. Foam rollers cost around $10-20 and a lax ball is around $1. I came across a good article by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson that explains foam rolling more in depth – Feel Better for $10.
- Contrasting. The first few times a person uses contrast showers it may be uncomfortable, but still invigorating! I recall when John, new trainer here are Synergy Athletics, was getting ready for the NFL combines. He had his full day scheduled, including his time in the shower! There are different time sequences used, but I prefer 1 minute as cold as I can stand, followed by 2 minutes of as warm as possible. Also, you can isolate the contrasting to a body part, such as the hands. Use two buckets, one with hot water, and one with icy cold water. Perform the same contrasting and you will feel great! Contrasting relaxes AND excites the muscles, moves blood through, and shortens the restoration time.
- Warm-Up, Stretch, and Relax. Stretching has been a hot topic in the training world lately. Stretching post workout and on rest days will help recovery. First, during a workout, muscles contract and shorten. Stretching them after the workout insures the muscles range of motion and length. Pre Workout you should be using (with a couple exceptions) a dynamic routine. For recovery, I recommend increasing the body’s core temperature with some light exercises such as jogging or jumping jacks, then performing a static stretching routine. I also snuck relaxing in here. I have some kids that want to stay up on their video games until 1 in the morning, then wake up at 6:30 to go to school. That’s not how it works! You must relax and get your sleep.
- Hydrate. Drinking water is crucial, but I don’t use strict guidelines such as “drink 8 oz every 13 1/6 minutes.” I just tell the athletes to drink, bring water with them when they train, and keep a water bottle during the day. There are many recovery drinks out there, but to keep my demographic in mind, water is the most practical. Drinking on your rest days will help push toxins out and keep the muscles loose.
If you implement these recovery and restoration methods, you will feel better, and most importantly, you can train HARDER. We like to “train hard and recover hard.” I originally wrote a longer post, but it wasn’t saved! So, if you have any questions or additional thoughts, just post them in the comments!
- Joe Hashey, CSCS -