Some people call it a “good” pain, but the truth is that no one really enjoys getting out of bed the morning after an intense workout. Your body is tense, your muscles feel weak and swollen, and you are ferociously hungry. You may feel like you never want to return to the gym again, but exercise-induced muscle damage and the steps you take to recover are all part of becoming a better athlete. Knowing the right steps to take to recover are essential for muscle repair and injury prevention, and the good news is that it’s easier than you might think.
First Things First - Stop Overtraining
There is a growing amount of evidence that suggests moderate to high-intensity exercise performed longer than 90 minutes can negatively impact your health, in the form of chronic infections and fatigue, allergic reactions, digestive discomfort, insomnia, and depression (Gleeson, 2007). When you constantly push your body to its limit, your performance suffers, your health deteriorates, and you quickly place yourself in a vicious cycle that can lead to serious injury. When it comes to exercise, less is more.
Take a Power Nap
A short nap during the afternoon of ten to thirty minutes can restore your energy and potentially improve your performance and learning ability. Research suggests that recovery naps help you to enter a deeply restorative state, which could be a valuable recovery tool following an intense workout (Davies, 2010). After your next workout, head home and set your alarm for 30 minutes. Listen to a meditation recording, relax in a massage chair, or snooze on your couch for 30 minutes before preparing your post-workout meal.
Have a Liquid Lunch
Post-workout recovery shakes are a great way to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs. Following intense exercise, a combination of protein and carbohydrates will help to replenish your muscles and regain your strength. A high quality egg white, soy or whey protein supplement contains essential amino acids needed to promote maximum protein synthesis, and should be combined with a quick digesting carbohydrate, such as oranges, pineapple, or raspberries to speed up your recovery rate (Stark, 2012).
Dress the Part
Sleep and nutrition will do wonders to aid in your recovery, but if you are looking for another tool to help ease muscle soreness, compression clothing may be for you. Compression clothing can be worn on any part of the body to accommodate any sport, and is engineered to apply mild pressure without losing its shape throughout the day. If you are a runner who regularly experiences shin splints and pain in your lower legs, a compression sleeve may help reduce your recovery time and get you back on the track faster (Hill, 2013).
Get Back On the Horse
Lifting weights generally involves two different types of muscle contractions- the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phase. The lowering portion of each rep you perform is what causes the most muscle damage and soreness. If you are feeling stiff, there is a way to still make it into the gym without further damaging your muscles by performing concentric-only exercises. Step ups, pulling or pushing a sled, and light work with a medicine ball will allow you to get your blood flowing and add the variety you may be missing to remain consistent and protect your body from injury.
Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services. She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.