Whether you are a complete novice when it comes to exercise or a seasoned veteran, rest days or recovery play a very important role in your overall success and help to reduce the onset of injury.
A lot of studies suggest something as simple as not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on performance and recovery. Sleep quality is just as important if not more so than the amount of sleep you get. You can even get smartphone apps that help regulate and improve your sleep patterns – check out “Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock”. Sleep is the ideal time for your body to start protein synthesis which helps rebuild your muscles so they are stronger and have greater endurance.
- Just Relax.
When not training or x-training make an effort to do something that you find relaxing. Catch up on your favourite blog, read a book, listen to relaxing music or participate in some rejuvenating yoga. Whatever helps you relax, do it and more importantly enjoy it. Kenyan runners are some of the fastest endurance athletes in the world and for them, rest is a serious business.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recovery. How long and how often? Factors such as age, gender and current level of fitness level are all important in determining how much rest we really need. When you consciously notice a decrease in performance from workout to workout, this usually is your body’s way of telling you to take some time off.
- Protein Morning and Night.
As mentioned in “SLEEEEEEP” our bodies repair and rebuild muscles while we sleep so aim to eat more protein later in the day closer to when you are going to go to sleep. Breakfasts higher in protein give our muscles the necessary ingredients to start rebuilding and can reduce food cravings later in the day.
- Drink milk.
If you’re not lactose intolerant and love a glass of icy cold milk, aim to have one directly after your next workout. Add a natural sweetener like honey for a little bit of extra carbs. This will give muscle recovery a jumpstart, and consuming carbs & protein directly after a workout have been shown to decrease the actual amount of time it takes for the body to recover.
Sometimes you just can’t beat a plain glass of water. How many glasses to consume a day varies in almost every article you read. My tip – aim to drink a little more than you already do and you should be on the right path. Studies show that exercising whilst dehydrated can cause greater damage to muscles and reduce the body’s ability to repair itself efficiently. And NO guys, just because beer is 99% water doesn’t mean it will help you recover better. If you are going to have a few post-workout bevvies, aim to re-hydrate first and eat a meal high in protein first. The will cause you to feel fuller and thus not drink as much alcohol as you may usually do.
- Foam Rollers Rock!
Some of the soreness that occurs after exercise is caused from a build of lactic acid but a lot of it is caused from either the natural damage that occurs to muscles and fascia during exercise or from a build of when these muscles and fascia become knotted or restricted. Rolling out tired and sore muscles with a foam roller can help remove those knots and prevent muscle imbalances from forming.
Although foam-rollers are great, you never can beat a massage from a trained professional.
- More Protein!
Consuming some protein before working out can prompt our bodies to start muscle synthesis (repairing and building more muscle) even while working out. Amino acids are the building blocks of tissue, and we consume protein to give our bodies enough to rebuild and maintain muscles damaged during workouts.
Let’s not forget post-workout protein. Drinking a protein rich smoothie or eating a meal high in protein after a workout can ensure the body has enough fuel to keep on rebuilding long after the workout is over.
- Nanna Nap.
I am a huge fan of daytime naps. I don’t have one every day and the length of the nap usually varies from 20 mins to an hour but I definitely don’t feel guilty when I do. Taking a nap around two hours after a workout helps the body enter deep, restorative states of sleep.
Studies suggests wearing compression garments (post-workout) can help decrease the time it takes for muscles to recover between intense bouts of exercise. The jury is still out on whether there is a significant improvement during exercise, but like most things, trial and error usually works great.
- Ice Baths.
Personally I have never had one (literally) but I am a huge fan of either soaking in the ocean or my pool post workout especially when raining for endurance events during the cooler months. Research suggests taking a cold, full-body plunge after working out can significantly reduce soreness and inflammation for up to 24 hours after exercise.
Also, according to some studies, anti-inflammatory medications and spices (like turmeric and ginger) can speed muscle recovery. But be warned: If your goal is bigger guns, a little soreness maybe be what the doctor ordered. Please consult your GP first.