What helps muscle recovery?

The easiest and most effective way to recover sore and tired muscles is to rest them.  Letting your muscles recover from a hard, strenuous workout is just as important as the workout itself, and will help improve fitness.  Recovery is necessary for both muscle and tissue repair.

While some people have a huge mental struggle with the recovery part of training regardless of how important it is, there are additional recovery steps that can also be done.

Pre-workout:

Start every workout with a proper warmup.  This will help stimulate blood flow and help engage the right muscles when the harder effort starts.  Make sure that you are hydrated, and have done some light stretching.  Ease into your workout.  If you are heading out for a track workout, don’t start your first mile doing 400 repeats at your max effort.  If it’s cold, make sure you allow extra time for your muscles to warm up.

During workout:

Always carry water.  Even when it’s colder out, you are still sweating and losing water and electrolytes.  If your training session is longer than an hour, make sure you take in calories and electrolytes.  Suggested doses would be 100-300 calories per hour.  In hotter climates or with more intense workouts you may need additional electrolyte supplements to avoid nausea, cramping and other symptoms related with excess sweating and dehydration.

Post workout:

Always allow for a proper cooldown.  Don’t end an all out effort by just stopping and sitting.  Stretch, do a light jog or walk to bring your heart rate down, and then do a light stretch.  Continue to replenish fluids.

Plan ahead to have a good recovery drink and or meal within 30 minutes post workout.  This will help replenish energy stores, repair tissue and refuel your body for the next workout.  Have a quick snack ready to eat containing a good source of protein and carbohydrates such as:  chocolate milk, smoothies with protein added, sport and or protein bars, and even a peanut butter sandwich.

For harder workouts, a foam roller is a great post workout routine.  Rolling the larger, more engaged muscles (quads, glutes, hamstrings) is key and will help flush any built up lactic acid, reducing soreness.

Continual and preventative recovery methods:

There are additional things you can do once you’ve done the proper cooldown, stretching and refueling.  Ice baths are a great way to reduce inflammation and start the recovery process for muscles.  You can submerge into a cold water (using ice) bathtub for up to 20mins, dip your legs into a cold pool or even take a frozen bottle of water and directly massage the sore muscles for more direct therapy.

Massages are also a great way to promote tissue repair, flushing or removing toxins and lactic acids.  It’s a great way to stimulate healing and relax your muscles.

Always listen to your body and do not push past any warning signs like pain, swelling or extreme fatigue.  Rest is the number one way to recover and your body will always let you know what it needs.