Your muscles are sore, achey, you feel tired and exhausted… and you’re thinking… “I thought exercise and training was supposed to make me feel more energetic and less tired?”. Well, it is still true, exercising regularly does make you feel more energetic and less tired. However, there is one key element to training and exercising that is just as important as doing the exercise, and that is RECOVERY! Recovery is all about what you are doing post-workout to help you get the absolute best out of your training, and to make sure you overcome that muscle soreness and fatigue as best as possible.
From my experience as a Personal Trainer, I’m going to pick the Top 3 Essentials to help you recover faster!
Food and Water – Our basic needs, which should go without saying, but believe me, I know many of you out there aren’t getting enough of these basics!!!!! Water makes up 60% of the average person’s body weight, so drinking water, before, during and after exercise, is an absolute must because it will maintain your fluid balance so that you are not becoming dehydrated. If you are not getting enough water intake, this can lead to headaches, increased chance of cramping and slower muscle recovery. The same goes for the food we are putting into our bodies, if you don’t have a balanced diet, the chances are your body and your muscles are not going to be getting what they need to recover well.
Foam Rolling – This is ABSOLUTELY key. I cannot stress enough how important this is. For those of you that don’t know too much about foam rolling, it is essentially a form of massage therapy for the muscles, but it is more low cost, portable, and achievable to do on a very regular basis. How does it work? I hear you ask. You use your own body weight on the roller to apply pressure to the muscles which will then help to soften and lengthen the soft tissue and restore its functionality. Yes it may be painful at first, but that is just a sign that your muscles need the attention that you are now giving them. The more rolling you do, the less painful it will become because you are getting rid of any knots and tightness in those sore muscles. So the next time you are sitting in your living room watching something on netflix, if you have a foam roller, why don’t you hop down onto that and continue to watch your programme whilst giving your body some amazing recovery attention. Just to back up my encouragement of foam rolling, the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) explains that studies have shown foam rolling can “enhance mood and reduce exercise-induced fatigue (27, 39, 63, 64). Healey et al. (27) showed postexercise fatigue to be significantly less after foam rolling” (NSCA, www.nsca.com). So there we have it, you don’t have to just take my word for it, it has been proven in research. Try this one by Trigger Point Performance Foam Roller ($39.95).
Sleep – Again I cannot stress enough how important sleep is for your recovery. Whilst we are sleeping, our bodies are actually quite busy enjoying this downtime to work on repairing and restoring your muscles. Our muscles relax when we are asleep, this relieves tension in them which can then help reduce the amount of muscle pain and tightness you experience. For the weightlifters out there, after a heavy workout, during your sleep your muscle cells and tissues are repairing the tiny micro tears in the muscles from your workout, which then makes them become stronger. For you to feel all of these benefits, and use your sleep to your advantage in your training, you need to ideally get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.
Those are your top 3 essentials to focus on for your recovery after workouts. The best thing about these things, is that it is not going to cost you an arm and a leg to improve your recovery. These essentials are low cost and no cost, but with some good commitment and consistency will get you into a much better place with your training. A place where you feel more energetic, and less exhausted after your sessions.