So you started your New Year’s resolutions, one of which no doubt being a vow to get healthy and fit in 2017! You spent time planning your workout, but did you stop and think about your recovery plan? Whether you’re new to exercise or just changing up your routine, proper recovery after a workout is just as critical as the workout itself.
Is recovery really that important?
In a word, yes! You see, when you exercise you put your body through a controlled amount of stress. Now understand that stress is essential for your tissues to improve their function and for your performance. What actually happens is that you get micro tears in your muscles from the imposed demand of your activity. So recovery is important because it gives you a chance to build yourself back up stronger than before. It is, in essence, the link between your short-term (immediate) benefits and long-term (lasting) outcome.
Here are some strategies to allow you to gain maximum benefit from your workout while diminishing your risk of developing an injury:
Refueling (Nutrition and Hydration)
You often take the initiative to make sure that you properly nourish your body before exercising in order to optimize performance, but nutrition for recovery? That is often overlooked. When your tissues have been stressed during exercise your body counts on a well-balanced variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to assist in rebuilding and repairing those stressed areas. Making sure you include a healthy combination of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats will benefit your body the most to maximize the benefits from your hard effort.
Don’t forget about water! Proper hydration after exercise is extremely important in replacing the fluids that you lost during your workout activity. Water is also crucial for maintaining healthy joints, regulating temperature, and eliminating wastes that build up in your system during exercise. It’s always a good habit to carry a water bottle with you for easy, reliable access, whether it be in your gym bag, purse, car, or office.
I dedicated an entire blog post to determine when you should be performing static stretching and when you should be performing dynamic stretching. In case you missed it, you can access it here. We know how important a role stretching plays in recovery, yet we rarely give it the time or attention that it deserves. The reason that you stretch is so you can maintain the flexibility of tissues that are stiff or tight from an activity or a prolonged position. Just to briefly recap the difference between static and dynamic stretching–static stretching is when you hold a stretch for a prolonged period of time (such as a runner’s stretch for your calf when you lean against a wall), and should be performed after exercising. Dynamic stretching is when you combine muscle groups by using movement (think hip circles, walking lunges, or butt kicks), and should be done prior to your workout. Don’t forget about foam rolling, either. This is actually a kind of combination between massage and self-mobilization. This helps to reduce knots in muscles or overall tightness in general.
Cross training is often utilized to challenge your body with different tasks to make sure that certain tissues do not get over-stressed (which can lead to overuse injuries). Try and find a variety of different exercise types to choose from…these could include running, walking, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, yoga, pilates, etc…And don’t simply do exercises that you like to do (although this is important for motivation and sticking with your program)–make sure you do exercises that your body needs. This is where a Physical Therapist can be oh so beneficial in helping you to determine if you are prone to over-use injuries by determining your deficiencies based on your workout regimen.
Listening To Your Body
Nobody knows how your body feels after a workout better than you. But you must allow yourself to appropriately recognize the signs of fatigue, pain, or discomfort so you can increase recovery time between workouts. This could also certainly include pushing yourself to work harder when you are feeling well. And for heaven’s sake–don’t worry about what others are doing at the gym! Trust in yourself and the signs that your body is giving you. And don’t ever be reluctant to ask your Physical Therapist for some tips and pointers on how your body may give you feedback after exercise, as well as the best way to respond to that information.
Getting Enough Sleep
How many times have you heard a colleague or coworker say “ahhh…sleep is over-rated!” Wrong! Sleep is your body’s premier opportunity to repair and recover, yet it is often taken for granted. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep each day/night, while teens should be getting 9-10 hours of sleep daily. These guidelines take on a greater significance when you are exercising and demanding more of your body (or have stressful daily activities). When you sleep, your cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal, and immune systems can begin their repair processes. And to get the most benefit of a restful sleep, avoid stimulating activities in bed (watching TV, using your Smartphone, etc), and strive for consistent bedtimes.
Yes, life gets hectic! It’s very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life and neglect your needs in the process. Don’t let your health be the thing that suffers when the unexpected comes up. Make an attempt to plan your day (or week) so that you have ample time to work out and then to follow and implement the strategies listed throughout this post. This way you won’t feel as rushed and eliminate important recovery activities.
Do you or someone you know have questions on how to get started with designing an individualized exercise program, as well as strategies to make sure you properly recover in the most effective way? Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!