Recovery is so important for anyone who exercises, regardless of the volume and intensity. The key is to not think that “recovery” means “complete rest”. One hour in the gym or running then sitting down on your backside for the remaining 167 hours in the week is not a good recipe for your overall health and well-being.
When we say recovery, we mean things you can do to improve your chances of coming back to the activity stronger, being fitter, preventing injury, improving your overall health, and maximizing the time you do spend lifting weights/running or whatever activity you do.
So, here’s our top 5 ways you can promote good recovery
I don’t think anyone would argue that sleep is good for you – but are you having good quality sleep? Having a good bedtime routine is vital. Regular times for going to bed and getting up helps to set your body’s internal clock and ensure the quality of sleep is optimal.
Electronic devices should be switched off at least one hour before bed (including e-readers). This is because technology stimulates our cognitive functioning – firing off neurons and revving up your brain – exactly the opposite of what you need when you are preparing for sleep. Added to that, the artificial light emitted can affect our circadian rhythms and the secretion of melatonin – the substance that helps to induce sleep (see this article which includes details of a study by Dr Anne-Marie Change of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston).
Don’t refuel on junk is the simple message. Make sure you are taking in sufficient calories for what you burn (we can help you work out what that is if you want). However, it isn’t all about calories – it’s about ensuring you are eating the right balance of protein, carbohydrate and (good) fats to nourish your body and help it to repair effectively. As a general rule, ensure you have plenty of different colours on your plate – that will give you a balance of vitamins and minerals which your body needs.
Our bodies are around 70% water and we can only survive for a few days without it. The effects of dehydration compromise how our body functions, and how it repairs itself. We wrote a full article on this topic so read this for a good insight into why it is really important to drink sufficient water.
MASSAGE / FOAM ROLLER
One of the key benefits of massage is to help prevent injury. A good massage therapist can identify tight, weak or imbalanced muscles which could lead to strains if not managed appropriately. Massage also promotes good circulation. If your muscles are tight and blood flow restricted then the oxygen and fluids which repair your muscles won’t be able to travel around your body as effectively. Massage can therefore speed up your recovery time. Equally as important is the psychological aspect – relaxation, increased mental health and time to switch off should not be underestimated.
APPROPRIATE RECOVERY EXERCISE
This is one area that needs careful consideration and must be specific for you and your training / aspirations in sport. Clearly how an olympic athlete recovers in between their core training sessions is different to a recreational runner who does parkrun once in a while. But, this does come back to the ratio of exercise time to hours in the week. If you only do a few hours of exercise a week then you won’t be spending 5 hours on recovery exercise.
But what do we mean by ‘recovery exercise’? It should be movement at a greatly reduced intensity and duration in comparison with the core training sessions. It could be a gentle swim or a walk, it could be an easy session in the gym working on technique rather than lifting heavy.
We hope this has give you some excellent guidance on how to recover better. In the training plans we put together for Personal Training clients all these aspects are taken into account, along with the individual’s lifestyle, commitments and desires. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further, we’d love to hear from you.