So you just had a hard workout, you’re beat, you’re thirsty, you’re sweaty and you just want to chill at home. But…what you do next is critical for how your body and mind will recover so that you can do it all over again tomorrow. Let’s talk about recovery strategies and why you need them.
Why should you focus on recovery? Is this something you should include in your normal training routine? Well, if you want to give your muscles, body, and brain the best chance to heal, repair, and repeat, then yep, it is an essential part of your training routine. It should be well-planned just like your training session is.
Here are my top 5 tried and true recovery strategies:
1) Hydrate - This one should be pretty obvious, but I’ll say it anyway….drink water! Hydrate so your body can replace the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweating during your workout. This should be the first go-to strategy not just after practice, but before and during! There is nothing worse than waking up the next morning feeling dry, sore, and dehydrated. Take into account things like the type of exercises you are doing, the intensity of the exercises, the climate you are in, your body weight, your sensation of thirst, and urine color to help you determine how much water you need to drink.
2) Eat - Again, it goes without saying- you need to eat as part of your recovery strategy! However, you would be surprised at how many people don’t eat after training or delay eating as if it could wait. Think about eating as giving your body the nutrients and building blocks it needs to repair and rebuild as well as enjoying the experience. Thinking ahead and meal planning for the week may take time to do initially, but in the long run, it will save you time and decision making fatigue before and after practice. No more late night runs to your favorite fast food restaurant, haha. A simple place to start would be eating shortly before and after practice.
3) Stretching - Although the research is conflicted showing that it actually makes a difference in flexibility or injury prevention(1,2), stretching can be helpful in recovery. The benefits of stretching may promote relaxation through breathing, improve focus while you quiet your mind during your stretching practice as well as help with injury recovery. Many of the patients and clients I have worked with over the years, have experienced positive benefits from stretching. Stretching is something that helps people FEEL better. You can’t deny the benefits of feeling good.
4) Epsom Salts - These are definitely a favorite of mine and Troy’s, our HP Director. Troy started taking Epsom salt baths a few years ago, and now it’s one of his go-to’s when he is sore, stressed, or just wants to relax. Epsom salts are typically made of Magnesium-sulfate. Magnesium, a major mineral, is essential for muscle function as well as about 300 other biochemical reactions in the body. Taking a warm Epsom salt bath and adding in some essential oils is a great way to help your muscles and mind unwind and relax. Hey, it might even help you sleep, which brings me to our next strategy.
5) Sleep - Believe it or not, we need sleep to allow our bodies to rest and repair. Sleep is not one of those things where you can say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” No, if you want to feel good and get back at it the next day, then you need to sleep! Sleep is when our bodies are in a resting but busy state of going through maintenance and repair processes. I know sleep is easy to brush off and just drink caffeine to make up for the loss of sleep, but eventually this lack will catch up with you. Aim for at least 7-9 hours a night to get your body back on track.
Of course, there are more strategies that have many awesome benefits, but for now I’m giving you a starting point. I want to keep this practical and doable. Because let’s be honest, if you want to start getting better at something or add a new goal to your already busy and hectic life, then you need to start simple. Once you have mastered adding a few or all of these strategies into your recovery routine, then start to research more. Spend time figuring out what works best for your body. What works for one person, might not work for you. But at least you will have a place to start and give it a shot!