What does the word recovery mean to you? To most it just means sleeping or resting (which is fine and probably the easiest way recover from your workouts) but what if there were other things you could be doing to aid performance, promote a faster recovery and have you feeling fresh and strong for your next workout. Well there is…..
The five ‘active’ recovery techniques listed below are some of my favourite. They can all be performed in the comfort of your own home and cost next to nothing.
A lot of people like to tag some stretching or flexibility exercises before or after their workout. I prefer to look at it as a completely different session entirely and do it for 10-15 minutes at home in the evening in front of the tv etc. Stretches should be held for 30-60 seconds. The benefits of stretching should not be overlooked and include increased flexibility, increased joint range of motion, increased blood flow to the muscles bringing nourishment and flushing waste products and it helps beat stress by relaxing tight muscles.
· Foam rolling
This technique is similar to getting a sports massage, but only at a fraction of the price. You simply roll your calves, hamstrings, quads and lower back etc. over the roller. There is a bit of pain involved, but bear with it, the benefits such as increased flexibility and released tension in the muscles by digging out those knots will really help your recovery rate. Again like stretching you can do this at home on rest days/between workouts.
· Ice bath
This is not the most enjoyable active recovery technique and I can guarantee you in the 15 minutes it takes to have an ice bath you will repeatedly ask yourself the question “why the F*CK am I doing this!?” The best time for an ice bath is immediately after your workout or sports match. They work by constricting the blood vessels which in turn reduces swelling and holts DOMS. After the bath the underlying tissues warm-up causing a fast return of fresh blood flow bringing nutrients and flushing harmful metabolic debris out of the muscles.
· Epsom salt baths
Contradictory to the previous bathing technique, this is by far the most enjoyable. Next time you have a hot bath drop in some Epsom salts which can be brought from most supermarkets and even some good health food shops. Epsom salts are high in magnesium so it’s a great way to get a boost if you’re deficient. Amongst many other processes, magnesium is necessary for the body to bind serotonin, a mood enhancing chemical within the brain creating a relaxed feeling of well-being. Epsom salt baths also help flush out toxins easing muscle aches and pains.
· Proper hydration
Last, but by no means least is proper hydration. Exercise increases the demand of water, so it’s paramount to make sure your drinking enough to prevent dehydration which can lead to poor performance. Water also helps flush out harmful toxins, which again will help aid in the recovery process. Aim for at least 3-4 litres a day.