Other than the joy of a mental victory lap before plopping onto the couch and, of course, the bragging rights of a post-workout Facebook status update, why does workout recovery matter?
Proper recovery post-workout matters because exercise stresses our body and tissues (“micro-trauma”), and it is the recovery and healing time after the workout when you build yourself back up stronger. Without giving your body the proper recovery it needs, you can hamper your short and long-term fitness goals.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, proper workout recovery includes:
Stretching maintains the flexibility of tissues, helps minimize injury risk, and can actually improve results from strength training exercises. Stretching typically comes in 3 forms:
- (1) static/isolated (where you hold a stretch for a long time, often when wrapping up exercise),
- (2) dynamic (where you stretch through movement, often before exercising), and
- and (3) foam rolling (a type of self-mobilization and massage, often throughout the exercise)
Refueling with Hydration and Nutrition
For optimal exercise recovery, our bodies need a well-balance array of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to not only recover, but also rebuild stronger. For most people, this means a well-balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats so your body gets what it needs to heal. Water, unsurprisingly, is also critical. Your body loses a lot of fluids during exertion, and water helps you regulate your temperature, maintain joint health, and eliminate wastes from the body. Water is important before, during, and after exercise, and especially if you exercise in extremely hot or cold climates.
If Injured, R.I.C.E.
R.I.C.E. means Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If you have minor pain or swelling in a joint like your knee, ankle, or shoulder, R.I.C.E. can decrease both inflammation and pain. If your symptoms don’t subside in a few days, it may be appropriate to get a professional examination to determine whether you are injured, and what steps you should take to minimize your recovery time.
Be Kind to Yourself
Listen to your body and recognize pain, soreness, fatigue, and your bodies other signals that it may need recovery time. Your body will often being telling you to slow down if you are risking injury, or coming down with something, or didn’t get enough rest to perform at the level you might normally.
Cross training may help you avoid injury by not over-stressing certain muscles or joints. Plus, it can improve performance. A runner will benefit from strength training, a golfer from yoga, and so on.
Sleep, like water, is critical, and yet so often taken for granted. It is during sleep that our body repairs its muscular, cardiovascular, skeletal, and immune systems. The CDC recommends 7-8 hours for most adults (and more for teens and kids), but some people will need more sleep, especially if they have been training hard. It may not be easy, but having a consistent bed time, avoiding watching TV or playing a computer in bed, and having a peaceful, comfortable sleeping environment and significantly improve your sleep quality. Getting the sleep you need will mean you get the results you want after working so hard at the gym or on the field.
You may be interested in learning more from the American Physical Therapy Association’s page “Tips to Recovery From a Workout.”
Absolute Wellness Center in Eugene, OR provides sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and more. If you are interested in improving your fitness safely, managing an existing sports injury, or preventing a future one, we can be helpful in getting you started and keeping you going strong. Contact us or give us a call at 541-484-5777.