These days, the market is saturated with products that promise to make us faster, stronger, fitter, and recover faster from exercise. Included in this vast list are an infinite number of supplements, multi-coloured liquids, fancy tights, cold baths, space aged shoes, magic jewellery, and all kinds of powders. Some of them work for some people, and the placebo affect of others cannot be denied. However, one thing is certain, and that is that the strategies outlined in this article are among the most effective methods of recovery available to man! I am recommending the following on the basis of personal experience, and on the basis of working with all kinds of athletes and exercisers. Pay attention to the following 5 points and follow up this article by putting them into practice, and not only will you recover better, but you will get the most out of your hard hours you spend training each week. To often, people are training away and getting weaker/ slower as the program progresses, but if you follow the following recovery strategies, you will be on the pigs back!
We lose more liquids during exercise than most of us think. Its important to keep taking liquids on board during exercise, but its also imperative that we re-hydrate afterwards. You can measure how much water you lost in a given session by weighing yourself before and after. 1 kg equals 1 litre, and it is not uncommon to loose in excess of 1 litre during training. In this case, you would need to hydrate with 2 litres. Re-hydration will aid blood flow, help to remove waste products from the muscles, and aid in muscle regeneration. Add a pinch of sea salt to each litre to help replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
Its well worth having some food at hand for consumption directly after a training session, and if there is ever a time to eat a sugary food, this is it. Aim to consume a piece of fruit, carrot, smoothie, or a yogurt before your sweat from the session dries. This will raise the blood sugar, and kickstart the recovery process. When you are washed and dried, your next target is to get a good post training meal. In this meal you want a high quality source of protein and fat, and also a high quality carbohydrate. Personally the following is a favourite post workout meal:
- 2 lamb chops
- ½ head of broccoli
- 3 carrots
- ½ cup of quinoa
3. Stretch and Roll:
A good stretch after training will help get the muscles back to their normal length, and also aid blood flow throughout the body. Spend 10 minutes at the end of a hard session with some light stretches, drawing big slow breaths throughout. In the nose and out the mouth. The next day, I recommend spending 20 minutes on the roller, and focus on any particularly tight areas. After a good roll, hit the mobility exercises to get the joints moving fluidly again. I will post some sample mobility and rolling workouts in the next article.
4. Epsom Salts Bath:
There is quite a lot of controversy surrounding ice baths, cyrotherapy chambers, and contrast baths. I am not jumping into the debate here, but personally speaking, I can attest to the benefits of a hot bath with a good sprinkle of Epsom salts and Tea Tree oil. Stick some relaxing tunes on, and not only will you get the benefits of the salts and oil, but you will be completely relaxed and at ease when you get out. The bath will help get the muscles nice and soft and relaxed, and you will be chilled for the rest of day. Don’t knock it until you have tried it!
5. Deep Sleep
Sleep is probably the most powerful way we have of recovering after the body has been placed under stress (i.e. exercise). If you have the points above nailed, a quality sleep is the next port of call. Generally speaking 8 hours is what we need, but its worth trying to sneak an extra hour or two after really hard games/ competitions ect. Know that all sleeps are not created equal in terms of their healing powers. If you want to get the most out of your snoozy time, try these:
- Be in bed at 22:30
- Don’t have any electrical equipment turned on (phones ect)
- Have a nice clean room
- Use a low light (candles for example), on in the room before you sleep as opposed to the big ceiling light.
- Get up before 9.
If you are not following the 5 points outlined in this article, then it wont be long before you reap the rewards you deserve from your hard training. Remember that you must get the basic things described here right first before you look to secondary methods of recovery such as compression garments and supplements ect. If you have any other recovery strategies that you use please share them below!