You put in hours and hours of exercise, be it training for a marathon, or working those weights in the gym. You feel good pushing so hard and you are raring to go again, only to realise the next morning that your muscles are so sore that you wince with each step down the stairs.
Recovery is just as important as your training, because it gives your body the time to rest and repair, so you can come back stronger. Having rest days as part of your workout plan is essential, but how else can you reduce fatigue and recover quicker?
Here are 7 ways to recover from a workout:
1) Stretch before and after your workout
Everyone knows that stretching before your workout is necessary, but most of us just want to get straight into it. Take time to warm up and cool down for each workout. Stretching helps to reduce muscle tension and also prevent injury, because you are more likely to get hurt when your muscles and tendons are cold.
2) Refuel well after your workout
What you eat after your workout is more important than you realise. Within the first hour after a workout, your body needs some food to help it regain energy and repair muscles. Prepare something that has some carbohydrates and proteins, like chicken with vegetables, egg and avocado, tuna sandwich, salmon and sweet potatoes or a protein smoothie. If you don’t have time, just a simple protein shake or chocolate milk will do too.
3) Take rest days
Some people strive to train every day of the week, and feel guilty when they take a rest day. But rest days are crucial to give your muscles a break from all that work. If you cannot do absolutely nothing for a day, try some active recovery, such as an easy cycle or a swim. This is to help you relieve soreness and give your muscles time to repair.
4) Make foam rolling a habit
It is normal to feel sore or tight after exercising. This tightness is often due to our muscles and fascia getting knots. Using a foam roller can help to remove these knots and release the tightness. This is known as myofascial release, which you can do yourself. Foam rolling may not be the most comfortable thing to do, it can hurt a little but it will help you feel much better.
5) Do regular sports massages
This is a more expensive method than foam rolling, so you can probably aim to do this once every two weeks or perhaps once a month depending on your training load. A sports massage is different from your usual massage at the spa – for one, there will be a certain level of pain involved (in a good way). That’s because a sports massage works deeper into the muscle fibres to realign them. This helps to flush away the lactic acid and as a result, reduces risk of injury.
6) Get quality sleep
This is a life goal actually – everyone, regardless of whether you exercise a lot or not, wants to get better sleep. However, some people find it hard to get six to seven hours of sleep a day because of their hectic schedules.
Seven hours is the ideal number of hours you should be sleeping, so if you are training for something specific, like a race or a competition, some sacrifices in your social life may have to be made so you can get an earlier night.
7) Wear compression garments
Compression garments – top and tights – are usually worn during a hard workout, or after any workout, to help reduce muscle soreness and aid muscle recovery. When worn, they restrict the fluid buildup in your muscles, thus reducing inflammation and giving you less aches.