Exercise is just a stimulus for recovery. We always focus on the intricacies of the exercise element, making sure we are doing the optimal sets x reps, making sure we are choosing the BEST exercises for our needs… and yet are we doing everything to maximise our recovery?
If you’re anything like most of the people we come across, recovery is something that’s left on the back burner, not greatly considered beyond downing a quick protein shake post workout. Let’s look at some other methods in more detail.
1. Ice baths
Now lets be honest. No one enjoys getting into an ice cold bath after a hard workout. Its freezing. BUT ice baths are an effective way of recovering. Using an ice bath after training has been shown to restore muscle function quicker than passive recovery. Basically meaning that you can get back to hard training sooner than if you hadn’t used one.
There is some debate in the scientific literature about the optimal time to spend in an ice bath to maximise recovery, but a general consensus is between 8-12 minutes. Doing an ice bath is pretty easy to set up in your own bathroom - fill the tub with cold water and chuck in some ice cubes. Make sure you take a timer in with you to make sure you don’t cut your recovery time short!
2. Active recovery
Active recovery removes lactate from blood quicker than passive recovery. In basic terms, if you do a “warm down” after your workout, you will recover quicker than if you just simply go home straight after a workout and lay on the sofa. A warm down also helps to slow down the nervous system after exercise (ever had that post training/match insomnia?), promoting sleep which again aids in recovery.
So it is worth spending a bit of time to warm down properly after training. This could be just a simple 10 minute jog, followed by some stretching or yoga.
3. Rehydration and restoration of energy
During exercise, body temperature rises; we subsequently sweat to prevent our body temperature getting too high. The amount of fluid we lose during exercise, is proportional to the volume and intensity of the workload. When dehydrated, drinking pure water lowers plasma osmolarity and plasma sodium (Maughan, 1991) which actually delays the body’s rehydration. Adding electrolytes to your water helps the absorption of water through the intestinal wall, and will help to rehydrate quicker.
It’s easy to make your own “rehydration booster juice” – why not try the following recipe:
- 500mls any juice of your choice
- 500ml water
- a pinch of salt
Simple, tasty and natural. Hydrated to the max.
So there are 3 simple considerations about your recovery. Make sure recovery is no longer the overlooked part of your training.