5 Steps to Recovery after Your Workout

Athletic Recovery

If you are feeling excessive soreness after working out, reduce your level of stress, and get a good nights sleep. Make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, and if soreness persists, perform foam rolling and stretching.

The #1 Way to Recovery from a Tough Workout?

To relieve soreness from your workout, you may wonder if you should pop open the medicine cabinet. Before your do that, here is something you may not have known.

As much as 50% of athletic performance and progress is determined (or heavily influenced by) what goes on in between training sessions. 

Absolute Health and Performance

Below I describe five essential factors that are key components of athletic performance that take place outside of formal training sessions.

#1 Sleep

Numerous studies have shown that adequate sleep, specifically deep sleep, has positive implications in athletic performance.

Sleep is where we not only process the motor skills we learn during training, and store them into our memory, but also where we begin to repair and restore muscle tissue and micro traumas induced through training. 

Many doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and if nothing else, this may be the most essential component of recovery.

#2 Stress

Maintaining a low level of stress is essential for balancing the hormones necessary for muscle growth and physical repair. 

When we train, we induce physical stress and trauma, breaking down muscle tissue through controlled stress.

Recovery relies upon the relaxation from stress.  Having elevated levels of hormones associated with stress, negatively impacts our hormonal balance, including our levels of cortisol and testosterone. 

Testosterone is key to muscle growth.  

Stress also negatively impacts our REM sleep, meaning we are less likely to remember what we train in practice.  Finally, stress affects our memory and attention span. 

To reduce stress, engaging in walking, meditation, yoga, or other light stretching may be helpful.

Also, setting realistic weekly and monthly goals can help athletes keep track of their progress and feel in control. 

#3 Stretching

We all know stretching is important, but few people understand why. By stretching before and after our workouts, we proactively prevent soreness and injury.

When we stretch after training, we bring blood flow to the area, and accelerate our recovery.

Stretching is an essential component of active recovery, the ideal form of movement after workouts or on rest days. 

Additionally, athletes who are more flexible are less likely to get injured. It gives your body more room for error. 

Stretching helps your mind focus, increasing body awareness (proprioception), as well as calming the mind, thus reducing stress. 

When athletes have certain tight body parts their athletic posture is affected, restricting fast and fluid movement.

 Stretching helps to correct posture, allowing for more efficient movement during the workout. 

Efficient movement means moving with balance, strength, and stability, and thus stretching is a pillar of which athletic performance stands upon.

#4  Nutrition

We all know that eating healthy foods is important, but I find that few people truly understand what healthy eating really means.  Food is about two main things: Calories and nutrients. Many people consume too many calories and neglect nutrients. 

Nutrient dense foods have plenty of healthy proteins, antioxidants, fats, and slow digesting carbs that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Examples of these foods include spinach, avocadoes, salmon, carrots, and broccoli.  

Caloric dense foods are foods like French fries, hamburger buns, sugary drinks, and cookies.  These foods have virtually no nutrients relative to their caloric content.

 It is important to note that we need both calories and nutrients.  Some foods, such as salmon, cashews, almonds, olive oil, coconuts, and cassava have both.  

It is important to consume a wide variety of nutrient dense foods after our workout to jumpstart our recovery and prevent soreness and inflammation.

#5  Days Off – Time-Out

The last component of recovery are days off.  All athletes need breaks, but what we do on those days off is important.  Getting the blood flowing is important, as well as light stretching and little physical or mental stress.  

When we train, we cause damage, and letting our bodies recover is what is the difference between getting weaker, or stronger. 

What you do on a day off determines how much you recover.

Use the five principles described above,

  1. sleep at least 8 hours
  2. Between workouts, go for a walk and do some light stretches
  3. Eat a few super healthy meals per day
  4. Reduce stress, and prioritize time with friends and family
  5. Take a day off, and perform active recovery

Summing it Up

Pick one or two of these elements to focus on a time, beginning with sleep.  Also, never ignore pain. If you feel pain, let a qualified athletic trainer or health professional know and help distinguish between muscular soreness and pain indicating ligament, tendon, or bone damage. Cheers!

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