Am I right? Or is that just me? 🙈
Either way, it’s Sunday, the usual day of rest and all, so it seems like the best time to talk about some recovery techniques.
Recovery is an often overlooked area of fitness. The majority of people who work out, even seasoned vets, forget that muscle fibers are torn and damaged during workouts. Rest from these workouts are vital in allowing for muscle growth and optimal recovery. For about two years, I worked out hard, built a lot of muscle, tightened everything, but I did nothing to relieve that tightness. Would you care to take a guess of what happened next? If you guessed I landed myself at injury central in paintown, then you would be spot on. But it all would have been avoided if I had just taken a few extra minutes to take care of myself after the actual workout. I learned first hand what happens when we don’t prioritize recovery techniques into our routines, so I’m here to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.
There are a couple different ways to recover after a tough workout. The first way is incorporating static stretching after our workout. That’s right, we stretch AFTER our workout, not before. The best way to explain why is to compare your muscles to a rubber band. When you try to stretch a cold rubber band too hard and too fast, what happens? It snaps. However, when that rubber has been heated a bit, its more pliable and more receptive to being stretched, which is why we want to stretch our muscles after they are warm aka after the workout. Static stretching, or holding a stretch for 30 seconds or more, is what we incorporate after the workout. Static stretching works by allowing the mechanism in your body (muscle spindles) that detect stretch to relax after being lightly stretched for that amount of time. Hold one or two stretches per body part for at least 30 seconds to get the most from your stretching.
(PS were having some technical issues with the videos because hi, I’m a Fitness professional, not a tech genius, so click the links below to take you to the videos for each technique!)
There’s another type of stretching that we can actually perform before our workout, called dynamic stretching. Dynamic movements, or stretches that aren’t held for a set amount of time, can be used before starting a workout, allowing your body and muscles to properly mobilize before the workout. As they aren’t as much istretching, but more of a warm up, dynamic movements prime your muscles to move. Dynamics are moving stretches, allowing the muscles to increase circulation, oxygen consumption, and get the body ready for a full workout. With dynamics, we stick to about 10-15 repetitions of each movement, starting with forward movements, then into lateral movements (side to side) after we’re a bit warm, then finish off with higher impact moves (like skips, hops, and jumps), or sport or workout specific movements, leading into the workout. The more prepared your body is for movement, the less the risk of injury is.
And our final recovery technique: foam rolling.
Foam rolling, or self myocardial release (SMR), is a form of muscle recovery that doesn’t involve stretching. It is unique in the sense that you can foam roll before a workout to help get some circulation into your muscles and help loosen any tightness or after a workout to again, help loosen any tightness or break up inflammation that built up during the workout session. Foam rolling involves using a foam cylinder to find inflammation in the body and breaking it up. You should be able to roll over your entire body with a foam roller and feel no pain (can i do that? NOPE but wouldn’t that be nice). Pain indicates that there is inflammation (a muscle “knot”) in that area. Once you find that knot, gently apply pressure with the roller to the area for a few seconds to try to break up that knot and then slowly roll back and forth along the muscle to help move the knot away. To foam roll your whole body, split each muscle group into two sections and focus on one section first before moving on to the next. To start, follow the direction of the muscle (example: up and down calves) and roll each section 4-5 times before stopping on any knots for about 20-30 seconds. SMR is close to a massage, so you need to make sure to drink lots of water after to help transport that broken up inflammation away from the area.
With all recovery techniques, the main thing to remember is consistency. Just as one good workout won’t make you jacked, one stretching session isn’t going to make you as limber as can be. You won’t notice the difference right away, but with time, your body will be more mobile and able to move better. It can be frustrating working time after time on stretching, but it will do wonders for you and the effective moment of your body. As well, be sure to breathe! Recovery relies on proper circulation and holding your breath can raise your blood pressure, and also prevent you from allowing your muscles to relax.
Another good technique for recovery? REST. Taking a day off (when you need it) and just drinking water and stretching/foam rolling can be vital to your recovery from tough workouts and allow your body to recharge and keep running smoothly.