Recovery from exercise is just as important as the exercise itself. Without a suitable recovery program you will take a long time to heal, suffer from fatigue and ultimately struggle with reoccurring injuries. Here is a guide to recovery and some options you should consider:
It is during sleep that the body releases anabolic hormones that repair itself both physically and mentally. During the evenings our cortisol levels drop and the Pineal Gland releases melatonin. It is melatonin that lowers the body’s temperature and causes drowsiness, but it is the Central Nervous System that controls the sleep wake cycle. Stimulants like caffeine, bright lights and TV have a detrimental effect both on our Cortisol levels and Central Nervous System causing disrupted sleeping patterns.
Avoid caffeine after 4pm and dim lights in the evenings. Follow your circadian rhythm and go to sleep with the sun and rise with the sun. This generally means head on pillow by 10.30pm. There is no more important recovery technique than sleep so make it your priority!
The body is influenced by everything you eat and drink at a cellular level. If you feed the body shitty protein shakes, sports drinks and vitamins, then it has to TAKE energy from itself in order to process this DEAD food. If you want to speed up recovery then you need to feed your body food with living content.
Lots of fresh vegetates and fruit if you need the carbohydrate injection after a workout. The more muscle tissue you break down during a workout the more protein you will require. So eggs, seared meats and Quinoa are excellent choices. If you are not exercising hard then you may need only a small amount of protein. Everyone is different so listen to your body. Ultimately, good nutrition if vital for quicker recovery.
Passive & Active Rest
There are 2 main types of rest, passive and active. Passive rest involves little energy so you may sit and read a book, meditate under a tree or go to the cinema. Active rest involves movement but not so intense that it requires a healing response. Examples are Tai Chi, Walking in Nature, Gentle Cycle Ride, Yin Yoga or Qi Gong. I personally like Active rest, it pumps the systems of the body and brings fresh nutrients and life into the body.
Often called the poor man’s massage, foam rolling is an excellent tool for soft tissue recovery. Foam rolling the muscles can help to improve soft tissue quality. As the body gets pulled and pushed through daily life, knots and adhesion appear due to micro trauma to the tissue. Foam rolling can help improve the movement of soft tissue as well as bring fresh blood and nutrients to the damaged area. Never roll onto joints and never roll an area that causes pain.
If you have the money and the time then this is a great option for recovery. Not only is a massage beneficial for the body but it is great for the mind too, and if done correctly can induce a parasympathetic response (causing the body to de-stress). Just like the foam roller, a good therapist will focus on improving soft tissue quality.
Another benefit is the stimulation of the lymphatic system which connects directly with the immune system. For many people who do not have a regular massage it can induce cold like symptoms as the body cleans itself. I personally try to get a massage every 1-2 weeks and I love it!
Cold Showers and Ice Baths
Like many of these recovery techniques Ice Baths or Cold showers cause a flushing or pumping of the system that helps to eliminate toxins from the body. Ice baths and ice packs will also help to reduce infammation of the body.