Proper recovery from any kind of activity is critical to performance. It allows your body to heal and be ready for the next training session. Neglecting it could lead to potentially damaging inflammation, mental and physical exhaustion, and even injury. Recovering doesn’t just mean spending five or 10 minutes to stretch after your workout - it also includes your quality of sleep, hydration, nutrition and massage therapy.
Let’s break down the key components of recovery:
- Sleep: This is when your body and brain repair and re-energize. When you sleep, the brain releases hormones that aid in tissue growth and repair blood vessels. Aiming for at least seven hours of sleep every night is a good rule of thumb. Not getting adequate sleep can not only hinder your recovery, but also put you at higher risk for certain medical conditions.
- Hydration: Your body is more than 90 percent fluid! Drinking enough water and maintaining the proper electrolyte balance throughout the day promotes better digestion, regulation of body temperature, and protects and supports soft tissue - especially your brain. Although the recommended water intake will vary depending on activity level, age, physical condition and environment, you should aim to drink a minimum of half an ounce of water per pound of body weight in order to experience these benefits.
- Nutrition: When it comes to nutrition, it can be difficult to figure out what works best for you. Focusing on proper post-workout nutrition will have a significant impact on how your body bounces back after intense training. It is important to prioritize carbohydrates with a low-glycemic index post-workout, but also make sure to consume protein and healthy fats to help your body replenish energy stores, repair muscles and reduce inflammation.
- Active Recovery: Massage and stretching are great ways to relax muscles, improve blood flow, and reduce muscle adhesions and soreness after training. Massage therapy has also been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve immune function, and increase energy and alertness. You might even notice improvements in anxiety, digestion, headaches, insomnia, soft tissue strains or injuries, and back pain. Incorporating techniques such as foam rolling, stretching and percussive therapy will help you optimize your recovery. Handheld massage devices, like the BioZoom Edge, utilize percussive therapy to reduce inflammation, relax tight muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and improve blood flow, and are great additions to your pre- and post-workout routine. Electrical Muscle Stimulation products, such as the BioPad EMS A and BioPad EMS C, provide similar results to massage by improving blood flow, relieving muscle pain, enhancing rehabilitation of muscles and preventing muscle atrophy.
Overall, paying proper attention to these key factors after training is going to improve your performance and enhance your longevity. Making small, achievable changes in your sleep routine, water and electrolyte intake, nutrition and active recovery will pay off in the long run (pun intended!), and allow you to maximize your potential for accomplishing your desired activities and goals.