The Basics of Recovery from Exercise

Post-workout recovery is one of the most important parts of your workout.

Imagine a farmer or gardener plowing a field – tilling the soil and planting the seeds, and then going right back to till the soil again, never giving the seeds time to take root. Maybe the farmer waters and feeds the seeds, but then immediately returns to tilling the earth. It makes no sense, right? It sounds absurd, and yet many athletes are doing virtually the same thing to their bodies. Working out takes a toll. In fact, the benefits from any workout only come after that toll has been paid.  Many people don’t realize that it’s the recovery after a workout that makes them stronger. The workout itself actually breaks the body down, and only by rebuilding from that breakdown is the body ready for more work.  

From this perspective it’s much easier to see the value of focused and consistent recovery after a workout.  Recovery can come in many forms, as simple as a drink and a snack, or a significant event. There are a wide variety of strategies. By working to incorporate as many as possible you’ll be able to get more out of each workout.

Recovery Basics

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is always a challenge.  From busy schedules to busy minds, sleeping for eight hours or more on a regular basis can seem impossible. Yet it’s only during sleep that our bodies produce the hormones that repair the damage done throughout the day.  By focusing on sleep and making small lifestyle changes, it can be easy to get more, better sleep. Even just avoiding your computer or cell phone screen as you approach bedtime or climbing into bed 15 minutes earlier can dramatically improve the quality of your shuteye.

Fuel

Depending on the conditions, athletes can lose a tremendous amount of water and electrolytes.  It’s important to replace those fluids both during and immediately after a workout. Losing more than 2% of your body weight in fluids during a workout will lead to a tremendous drop in performance and is unsafe.  Do some experimentation: weigh yourself before and after a workout, and you’ll get some good insight into how much fluid you need to consume pre- and post- exercise. The act of exercise, depending on intensity, burns carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In the time immediately after a workout, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients is at its peak.  During the first 30 minutes, athletes should consume foods high in both carbohydrates and proteins. By waiting 2 hours after a workout to consume fuel, nutrient absorption decreases around 50%.

Stretching

Stretching after a workout improves blood flow and allows the muscles to exchange the damaging byproducts of a workout for the nutrients needed to repair. Stretching also allows a muscle to retain its range of motion, helping to ensure quality performance in the future. Stretching the various muscle groups used during a workout and holding each position for at least 20 seconds will help achieve the desired effect.

Taking Recovery to the Next Level

Applying ice after a workout reduces inflammation and soreness. Additionally, ice will constrict the blood vessels and help remove lactic acid, allowing for healthy blood to return sooner. Ice can be applied directly with a cold compress or through an ice bath. Icing for just six to eight minutes can have benefits. A recovery massage can have many of the same effects as icing, while also promoting a state of relaxation. Tools like a foam roller or massage stick can make the job a little easier at home, but nothing beats the hands of a professional massage therapist.

Top Tier Recovery

As science continues to reinforce the importance of recovery for every athlete, new technologies are being developed to keep pace.  Many of these technological advancements are now being made available to the public as businesses like RXR3 Recovery in Gainesville begin to spring up.  Treatments can include cryotherapy saunas (chilling you at -130 degrees for 3 minutes), inflatable compression boots, and whole-body vibration to help your body flush lactic acid.  Additionally, infrared saunas, flotation therapy, and CVAC altitude pods bring the tools of the world’s best athletes to the masses.

Considering the time people spend working out, it’s shortsighted to neglect recovery.  Don’t let the valuable time and hard work go to waste by failing to allow your body to adequately adapt. Experiment with a variety of recovery techniques, from the most basic to the most advanced, and not only will you begin to feel the maximum benefits of your workouts, you’ll just feel better.  

Jared Nieters
About Jared Nieters 4 Articles
Jared Nieters is co-owner of Haymarket Bicycles and founder of Mapleworks Endurance Coaching. He has won multiple national championships in cycling and now coaches endurance athletes in a multitude of disciplines. He can be reached at info@mapleworkscoaching.com and found on most social media sites at @mapleworkscoach.

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