Maximum fitness requires maximal effort. But hard training also requires adequate rest and post workout recovery to achieve optimal results.
According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research too many athletes and trainees focus on training and ignore the post workout recovery phase essential to allow muscle and tissue to repair and rebuild.
The same research study found that if the rate of post workout recovery is improved, you can train more frequently and more intensely and produce better results in size, strength, and speed, more quickly.
Faster recovery periods will allow you train harder and more frequently to maximize your results!
What Is Post Workout Recovery?
As you sprint, lift a weight or participate in a boot camp, you place muscle fibers under stress resulting in microscopic “tears” that repair themselves during your rest and recovery.
According to the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), during post workout recovery your body adapts to training, repairs itself and bounces back bigger, stronger and faster.
How Can You Shorten Recovery Times?
Short answer: provide adequate amounts of the essential tools your body needs to repair itself.
Once you understand how repair and recovery work, you can provide the right fluids, nutrients, stimulation and environment to promote and shorten your recovery periods.
Here are 14 quick tips to help you speed up your post workout recovery:
1. Warm Up and Cool Down
Warm up before and cool down after your training. The warm up will increase blood flow to your muscles and reduce your risk of injury.
A 10-minute cool down of decreasing intensity will help reduce lactic acid and allow faster recovery and less muscle soreness as you recover.
2. Drink Water
Drinking fluids to stay hydrated and replace depleted electrolytes and glycogen stores will start your post workout recovery sooner.
The National Athletic Trainers Association suggests that fluids will also help reduce muscle cramps, dehydration and maintain blood volume.
3. Eat Right
Regardless of your style of training, your meals should include the proper combination of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fatty acids. Each performs specific functions to digest and absorb nutrients.
4. Post Workout Meal
Your post workout meal will help refuel to speed recovery and repair of damaged muscles and tissues. Try to eat within 30 – 45 minutes after your workout and include additional high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates in this meal.
Stretch after your cool down and several times between workouts. Five minutes of light stretching supports circulation to muscle tissue, providing nutrients needed for post workout recovery and reduces stored lactic acid and carbon dioxide.
6. Massage Therapy
7. Foam Rolling
The use of a foam roller for myofascial release will aid post workout recovery and reduce recovery times. Foam Rollers have the ability to reduce lactic acid, increase blood flow and loosen the tissue layer surrounding your muscles, allowing it to expand and grow.
According to the journal Physical Therapy in Sport, water therapy including spas, baths or alternating hot and cold showers every 30 seconds will increase circulation and speed the removal of lactic acid. Water jets will massage your muscles and joints and aid post workout recovery.
9. Cold Therapies
An ice bath or icy-cold shower for 5 to 10 minutes will cause your blood vessels to tighten and promote drainage reducing injuries, inflammation, strains, or muscular soreness. The temperature should range from 50-60º F (10-15º C) to be most effective.
10. Active Rest
A light workout between more intense sessions can support recovery more than the occasional day off. Active recovery sessions should just slightly increase circulation but be easy enough to avoid more lengthy recovery.
Most of your body’s repair occurs as you sleep. During the hours of sleep your body produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is responsible for tissue growth and repair.
Getting the right amount of restful sleep after a workout will promote stronger muscles.
12. Avoid Overtraining
You will recover faster if you design and follow a smart and staggered workout routine. Exercising too often, too heavy, or attempting to train too heavy at every session will limit your fitness gains and undermine your post workout recovery.
Periodization, the cycling of alternating training as outlined in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning, advises you to never train the same muscle or muscle group day after day. Allow time for your muscles to recover and rebuild.
14. Time Off
Take the occasional week off from training and let your body rest up and build up new energy stores. A week off every third month or so will provide both a mental and physical break from relentless training.
To reach your full training potential and your highest level of fitness, you need to train hard while training smart with a balance between training and post workout recovery.
Intense training and your hard work will stimulate muscle growth and endurance, but the down time for rest and recovery is when the repair and growth occur.
Making changes to promote faster recovery periods will allow for more frequent and effective training. Make post workout recovery a planned part of your well-designed workout plan to grow leaner, stronger and faster!