The time you spend working out is only one part of the equation you need to achieve your fitness goals. Exercise is the process of applying a physical stimulus to the tissues of the body. One thing that is often forgotten is the fact that your body becomes stronger and fitter after you exercise .. during recovery. The right type of recovery, will help you maximize the results and help ensure achieve the best results.
So it’s important to understand the types of recovery. Short-term, which occurs immediately after a set to allow the muscles to eliminate the waste products of contraction; and longer-term, which refers to the period of time between workout sessions. Short-term recovery can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and is important to ensure that you replace energy stores after each set. The longer recovery period between workouts is the one to focus on because it is the time period after the workout when the body adapts to the stimulus applied during the exercise session. The proper care of your muscle and connective tissue, consuming the right type of post workout nutrition, the quality and quantity of sleep and, believe or not, the types of clothes you wear, can all promote the post-workout recovery necessary to help you maximize the results from your time spent sweating.
COMPRESSION CLOTHING: You may have noticed a recent trend of athletes, (especially the long distance runners) exercising while wearing knee-high socks, tights on both their legs and upper bodies, or sleeves over their calves or arms. Wearing compression clothing before and after a tough workout is a relatively new form of recovery treatment that, according to the research, may be an effective solution. The pressure from the tight clothing can improve circulation; specifically, the return of blood back to the heart, which helps remove metabolic waste from muscle and promotes the flow of oxygenated blood to help the tissue repair and rebuild.
MYOFASCIAL RELEASE: Foam rollers, compressions balls and rolling-pin-like sticks all help reduce muscle tightness, and at least one of them should be a part of your regular recovery program. If a muscle doesn’t experience a proper cool-down, or is held in a shortened position for an extended period of time, collagen, which are inelastic fibers that are a component of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle, can bind between layers of muscle and create adhesions or knots. Traditional massage therapy works by manually manipulating muscle tissue to break up adhesions, allowing the layers of muscle to slide against one another without restrictions. The pressure and motion of a muscle moving on a foam roller can help break up adhesions and realign muscle tissue to be able to function normally. In general, foam rollers provide the greatest response when an individual places a body-part directly on top of the roller and moves rhythmically to apply pressure to the underlying muscle and elastic connective tissue. Breaking up adhesions can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint range of motion. Because it is not practical to hire a massage therapist after every workout, foam rollers, rolling sticks or compression balls can be used to apply the necessary pressure to break up collagen and promote optimal muscle recovery.
SAUNA OR HOT TUB: The heat from a sauna or hot tub increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products like hydrogen ions, while also carrying oxygen and other nutrients necessary to help repair tissue used during the workout.
ICE, COOLING BATHS OR CRYOGENIC CHAMBERS: Another less comfortable, but extremely effective option for recovery is the use of cold treatments. Ice baths, ice packs or cooling vests. Cold treatment can help cool down the body’s core temperature, which is essential when exercising in hot weather, and can reduce inflammation and promote healing in tissue that was used during the workout. The cold from the application of ice to a sore muscle or joint brings more blood to the area, which brings nutrients and oxygen to help promote healing.
POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION: During exercise, your muscles expend energy and experience physical stress. Recent research in the field of nutrient timing suggests that when nutrition is consumed relative to exercise may be as important as what is consumed. After exercise, the body needs to replenish energy with carbohydrates and repair tissue with protein. Having a post-workout snack or drink with a proper ratio of carbohydrates-to-protein can help with both needs. The carbohydrates refuel energy needs and increase insulin levels, which helps to promote the post-exercise utilisation of protein for muscle repair. Proper nutrition is especially important after high-intensity exercise. Evidence indicates that having a snack or drink with a 3 to 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio within 30-45 minutes post-exercise can help you recover from the day’s activity and get ready for tomorrow’s workout.
SLEEP: Sleep is probably one of the most important components of a total wellness program that can help improve your overall health and fitness levels. Your body produces most of the hormones needed for tissue repair during the deep REM cycles of sleep. If you are planning a high-intensity workout, it is important that you have the ability to get a full night’s sleep to allow the endocrine system, which produces hormones, to play its role in the recovery process.
In summary, too much exercise without proper rest and recovery can lead to injury or illness, both of which could keep you out of the gym for lengthy periods of time. Insufficient rest and recovery does not allow for optimal muscle protein synthesis and could lead to an accumulation of energy-producing hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol, which can reduce the ability to generate new muscle tissue. Loss of sleep or appetite, lingering illness and cessation of gains from exercise are all symptoms of overtraining, which can significantly affect your ability to achieve your fitness goals. If you have a busy period of work, travel or family obligations, adjust your exercise program accordingly and do low- to moderate-intensity workouts until you can return to your normal sleep patterns, which can support higher-intensity exercise.