Whether you like to lift weights in the gym or prefer to get your exercise on cardio machines or out on the road, you need to incorporate recovery time into your schedule. Taking steps to ensure that you recover properly from exercise is extremely important to ensure optimum long-term performance. That said; it’s something that many people overlook.
But why is it so important and what can you do to maximise muscle recovery? Let’s take a look.
Why Muscle Recovery is Vital
Ensuring that you give your muscles time to recover from physical stress is essential. When you exercise, you stimulate the muscles to grow, but the growth will only take place during the recovery period. Why? During exercise, you create tiny microtears in the muscle fibres. When you rest, your body has a chance to build new blood vessels to repair the tears and restore homeostasis. If you don’t give your body the chance to do this, these processes can’t take place. The outcome? You’ll find that your workouts aren’t improving in the way you expect. And even though you feel you’re working harder than ever; you won’t be making the progress you want.
Rest, Repair and Replenish to Maximise Muscle Recovery
To maximise muscle recovery, you need to incorporate 3 major things into your training plan alongside your physical exercise – rest, repair, and replenishment. Many of us forget to schedule rest days as we feel that more is better. However, rest is extremely important to make sure that you don’t over-train and put yourself at risk of developing overuse injuries. Secondly, you need to give your body time to repair the microtears created in your muscles. Finally, you need to ensure that you’re giving your body adequate nutrition and hydration to support your exercise schedule.
8 Easy Ways to Give Your Muscles the Best Chance of Recovery
Schedule in at least one complete rest day a week
While we can’t overemphasise the importance of scheduling rest days, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do any kind of physical activity during this time. Ensuring that you have enough rest days in your program will give your body the time to recover and repair and you can still engage in light activity on these days. Walking, light jogging, gentle cycling, yoga, Pilates and swimming are all great activities for rest days as they’ll stimulate blood flow to the muscles to help with repair but they won’t damage the muscles any further. Of course, if you want to relax completely, that’s totally fine too!
Be sure to get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is key to making progress with your training. Why? Because most of the muscle repair happens while you’re sleeping. So, you can see how important it is to get plenty of shut eye!
Take a bath
Many athletes swear by ice baths for muscle recovery and, certainly, they are known to aid recovery as they help the blood to remove lactic acid and encourage muscles, nerves and tendons to revert to their normal state. However, an ice bath may not be the number one thing on your list, especially when it’s cold outside. If you do try cold baths or showers, it’s best to introduce them slowly into your routine with just a few minutes of immersion to start with.
Alternatively, taking a warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts diluted in the water will work equallywell. Why? It’s all down to the magnesium in the Epsom salts, which is thought to encourage the removal of toxins from the body while helping to relieve stress. It’s also supposed to help with constipation, which is a nice side effect if that’s something you suffer with.
Finish every session with a cool down
Yes, we know it’s boring, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Most of us take time to warm up before we exercise, whether that’s with some active stretching or by performing a warm-up set. But many of us skip a cool down altogether and yet this is just as important. Your cool down encourages blood to move from the working muscles to the rest of your body and stretching after a workout will also help to remove lactic acid from your muscles into the bloodstream.
Use a foam roller
Using a foam roller after a workout can speed up the rate of muscle repair and reduce potential soreness. It may also enhance mobility as the rolling action works to smooth out muscle fibres and connective tissue or fascia. But be warned; foam rolling may feel quite painful, particularly in the areas that need attention – but don’t let that put you off.
Massage with a massage gun
Professional athletes will always include massage in their recovery program and so should you. The problem is that regular visits to a professional massage therapist may not be convenient or affordable in the long run. So, one way to get an intense self-massage is by using a massage gun. Massage guns (check out our REBELTM PRO), use percussive massage therapy to reduce inflammation within the muscles by helping to remove the toxins and lactic acid build-up while encouraging the movement of blood into the area.
Dial in your nutrition
Eating a balanced diet is vital for optimum health, particularly if you’re serious about exercise and improving your physical achievements. Eating the right type and quantity of food is not only vital to ensure that you have enough energy for a great workout but it’s also important to help your body to repair and refuel itself. After any exercise session, make sure to eat a meal containing both carbs and protein to help restore muscle glycogen and repair muscle tissue.
Drink more water
Are you guilty of not drinking enough water? Drinking plenty of water ensures that essential nutrients can be delivered to the muscles as they’re needed and helps with the synthesis of protein. If you don’t drink enough, these processes will be slowed down which, in turn, will slow down your recovery.
Rest, Repair and Replenish – The 3 Rs of Recovery
To give your muscles the best chance of recovery so that you can keep up with your exercise program and give yourself the best chance to avoid overuse injuries, incorporate the 3 Rs of recovery into your schedule. Paying attention to warm ups and cool downs, staying well nourished and hydrated, taking time to rest up and recover and easing sore muscles through massage and foam rolling will pay dividends. Do all of this and your body will thank you for it.