Alright, it was late and I was at a loss for a title. Pardon the lame play-on-words. On with the post. I promise, it’s better than the title…
I am a creature of habit. I like routines and I like doing them, well, routinely. Working out is definitely a routine that I have and I sometimes struggle with remembering to just take a break and give my body the much needed rest and relaxation that it needs. For me, exercising is a way of relieving stress and just letting out some tension at the end of the day. And going to group exercise classes at the gym are not only killer workouts but a great social bonding experience. In a world where nearly two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese and 60% of Americans reportedly don’t get enough exercise, I probably have bigger fish to fry than if I’m working out too much, right? WRONG.
Our bodies are our greatest gift. Can you think of anything else that you will possess so closely for your ENTIRE life? Something that you can’t exchange or trade in for a new one (unless you consider plastic surgery “getting a new one,” but let’s not get started on that tangent today). If you spent $300 on a cashmere sweater that was hand-wash only, would you put it through the washing machine? No, you would take care of it like the instructions on the tag tell you (Unless you are like me and forgot to read the tag in the first place. And then by the time you did read it, the only part left of the sweater WAS the tag…).
We have the instructions for how to properly care for our bodies: books, doctors, magazines, health websites, blogs and more. So why don’t we always listen? Sometimes I think as humans, we like to push the limits. We like to see just how far we can push and if we can defy the odds. You know the infamous saying, Oh, that will never happen to me. Famous last words, in my opinion. Just asking for bad karma.
Now don’t worry, I am not working myself to pure physical exhaustion; I know when enough is enough and allow myself to rest. However, if you are a health and fitness nut, you know what I’m talking about (and if not, humor me so I don’t feel like the only crazy person out there). Regardless of whether you overexercise, underexercise, or exercise “just right,” we could all use some reminders on how to best allow our bodies to recover from whatever activities we put them through. Not only are all these proven and backed by some cold hard facts, but I’ve personally tried almost all of them. And let me tell you first-hand, they work – I promise. Have you tried any of these, or other, recovery remedies? Tell us about them – this is the time of year when us runners can use all the help we can get!
10 Ways to the Best Recovery
- Get more sleep. This is definitely an area of my life that needs improvement. It’s not that I don’t want to sleep more or that I have a hard time falling asleep. I just have so many other things that I would rather be doing. And while the relationship between sleep and exercise is still a little fuzzy, there are a number of studies that suggest being sleep deprived will negatively impact your body’s ability to perform and recover. The optimal time for protein synthesis (which helps repair your muscles) to occur is when your body is in sleep mode. So next time you rather stay up until 1 am watching Mad Menreruns and labeling your pictures from junior high (again, humor me), think twice and get some zzz’s instead.
- Listen to (the right kind of) music. If I’m running, I need my tunes. For me, the fast-paced songs encourage me to push a little harder and go a little stronger, not to mention allows me to think of something other than how my legs are burning like a candle. Interestingly, research shows that switching over to some more mellow tunes post-workout can help lower your blood pressure more quickly. They even recommend that interval trainers adopt this mantra. I think next time I do an interval run, I’m going to create a playlist alternating some slow- and fast-paced songs and see what it does for me.
- Eat some protein before bed… Unless you are one of those people who sleepwalks and eats during the night, you aren’t putting any nutrition in your body for anywhere from 5-9 hours at night, not to mention adding on the hours before you eat breakfast the next morning. Eating a light snack with some protein before you hit the sack will give your muscles a jump-start to repair overnight. And if you’re not into eating something healthy before bed (especially if you ate “good” all day), get creative: instead of putting chocolate syrup on your ice cream, add sliced almonds and berries. Or swap out those Pringles with a turkey sandwich.
- …And then eat it again in the morning. Apparently this whole protein thing is pretty important (in case there was still any doubt in your mind). Protein is the best way to recharge your body’s battery in the A.M., so start off your day with some scrambled eggs, cottage cheese and fruit or a protein smoothie. Not only will this help your muscles start rebuilding from the moment you wake up, but studies show eating protein regularly throughout the day will help keep hunger at bay (no poetry intended, but I think I might coin that phrase).
- Got chocolate milk? I won’t lie – I don’t drink milk. I honestly don’t think I have drank a glass since high school; I much prefer to get my dairy from yogurt and cottage cheese. However, for those of you who can tolerate the milky beverage, channel your inner child and try adding some chocolate next time. Low-fat milk is a great source of – you guessed it – protein, and the chocolate adds the carbs, helping to decrease the amount of time it takes for the body to get ready for it’s next grueling undertaking.
- Get on a roll. Unfortunately, this step doesn’t involve eating a plethora of Pillsbury crescent rolls (much to my dismay). It DOES have to do with rolling out on a foam roller post-exercise. This is one of the most painful and beneficial things I have ever done after running. Basically you lay on top of this long foam roller and just roll in a back and forth motion, which helps untie the muscles and the fascia tissue that becomes knotted when you run. It doesn’t sound like it would be painful, and it really doesn’t look that painful, but I dare you to try it. It gets easier every time, so stick with it and you WILL see results and be less sore!
- Raise your glass. I don’t know if Pink was talking about water, but I am when I tell you to raise your glass – or water bottle. If you exercise when you are dehydrated, you are causing greater damage to your muscles and reducing your body’s ability to repair properly. While water can be enough for most workouts, make sure to switch to an energy drink, like Gatorade, to help replenish your electrolytes during those longer workouts.
- Put down your glass: And in direct correlation with #7, cutting back on the booze will greatly help your athletic performance. I can’t tell you how many times after a long workout I think, Man, I could sure use a cold beer right now (seriously, my drink of choice). However, when I have drank right after working out, I end up feeling extremely dehydrated and not too hot. If you do drink, make sure to eat something substantial to absorb the alcohol or else you will be drunk 3 sips into that brewsky.
- Ice, Ice Baby: We’ve all had those workouts when we immediately think, I am going to be sore tomorrow. When you have those nights, try to avoid going for ice cream and opt for icing those muscles (or at least take the bag of ice with you on the way to get the ice cream). Icing your muscles is especially important if you have any chronic injuries. Some recommend 20 minutes on with icing, followed by 20 minutes off; I personally prefer 10 on, 10 off; 20 minutes makes me numb, 15 minutes makes my skin sting, but 10 minutes is just right.
- Take a cold bath: If you have every prepared seafood, you know that after you cook it, you are supposed to submerge it in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. Okay, so this analogy may be a stretch, but work with me here. By treating your body in the same way that you do your crab legs, you will help your muscles relax and “stop cooking,” significantly reducing the likelihood of soreness and inflammation.