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If you want to get into the best possible shape and avoid injuries, allowing your muscles some time to recover is essential. Unfortunately, most people don’t have an after exercise plan. In this post, I will share some tips to help you establish one and get your post-workout recovery plans on track.

Rest and recovery doesn’t mean stopping all workouts; it can mean changing your routine to use different muscles on different days. For example: not strength training the same muscles 2 days in a row, or simply alternating cardio training days and strength training days.

A simple exercise routine to consider would be 3 days strengthening, 2 days cardio, 2 days Active Rest. (meaning – not hanging out on the couch all day- but possibly a brisk walk or light spin on a bike)

In addition to resting between workouts here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your recovery routine:

1. Stretch it out!

I know what you are all thinking… ugh stretching! Well, it doesn’t have to be the tired, old school, Gym class of our youth, style of stretching! One reason muscle soreness occurs is chemical by-products are left behind in the muscle. A good cool down stretch at the END of your exercise will recirculate and remove these chemical by-products along with the potential for muscle soreness. I’m a huge fan of “dynamic/active stretching” and it’s more engaging than the stretches of ole. My preference is to do dynamic stretches on both ends of my workout with a faster pace group pre-exercise to slowly increase my heart rate, like these. And post-workout, I use dynamic assisted rope stretches, to cool down, recirculate, and lower my heart rate.

2. Hydrate with Quality H2O!

Yes, there are plenty of sports recovery drinks on the market but at the end of the day, there’s nothing more beneficial than plain H2O. The rule of thumb is a person should drink 1/2 their body weight in ounces of water per day! As you sweat during a workout, your body drains its water reserves. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches and poor physical performance. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of water will improve every bodily function. So take the Water Boys advice- drink your Quality H2O! 😉 If you do want to add electrolytes consider my favorite brand great electrolyte addition without the sugar! (BTW no paid affiliation here just a product I like)

3. Refuel – Nutrition

Ideally, you should try to eat within 45 – 60 minutes of the end of your workout. (Even waiting past 2 hours can effect restoration values by 50%) Each macronutrient- Protein, Carbs, and Fat all play a role in recovery. Protein is critical to repair and rebuild muscles. Good sources include legumes/beans, eggs, fish, chicken, even a protein bar or protein shake. Depending on an individuals body weight studies show 20-40 grams will maximize recovery. Carbs replenish your body’s glycogen stores that get used during exercise. Having carbs in combination with the protein will provide more efficient insulin secretion and glycogen synthesis. Try consuming the two in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). For example, 30 grams of protein and 90 grams of carbs. Careful with the simple carbs – try sweet potatoes, brown rice/ rice cakes, fruits, and oatmeal. Fat is not ALL bad – it might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, but it will not reduce its benefits. Limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery. Keep to healthy fats – avocado, nuts/nut butters, trail mix. Micronutrients are important also – a quick list: Vitamins Bs, C, D, K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, & Selenium.

4. Catch your Zzzzz’s – plenty of sleep!

Sleep deprivation is detrimental to recuperation as it inhibits the body’s natural recovery and regeneration processes. When we enter the deep sleep state, our pituitary gland releases a pulse of human growth hormone to help with tissue repair and growth. When we enter REM sleep, testosterone levels rise which also aids in tissue repair. Basically, when we sleep, we’re getting perfectly legal and natural performance-enhancing “drugs.” If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you’re missing out on that! Some quick sleep hygiene tips include: 1. Stick to a bedtime schedule of same bedtime and wake time 2. Establish a bedtime routine with no electronics/blue light beginning 1 hour before sleep. 3. Have a quiet, dark, and cool sleep environment.

5. Try Recovery Modalities/Tools

There is a host of great products on the market to help you recover. However, they all fall into 1 or more of these most common “modality principles.”

Cryo/Thermo/Hydro – Therapies

Cold and/or Hot applications are the simplest and most accessible of treatments available. Cold reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow. Heat promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. Alternating heat and cold creates a “pumping” action within the blood vessels to reduce exercise-induced muscle pain. You can use these tools in many form including water submersion in the form of a bath or bucket for specific body parts. I personal enjoy a cool bath with some epsom salt for the magnesium boost!

Massage/Soft Tissue Therapies

Whether, you use a massage therapist or use some self massaging tools like foam rollers , stick tools, or percussion massagers, getting improved blood flow and relation to the soft tissues helps. Sometimes you can even combine therapies together- another fave of mine is the Cryosphere cold & massage at the same time! If it all sounds to fancy for you HINT- you can use the rolling pin you have in your kitchen 😉

Compression Garments

Compression clothing is one of the strategies that has been used to treat various lymphatic and circulatory conditions but also applies to muscle recovery. Compression garments are thought to improve venous return through application of external pressure which may reduce the intramuscular space available for swelling and promote stable alignment of muscle fibers, attenuating the inflammatory response and reducing muscle soreness. There are compression garments on the market from the complex mechanical devices to simple clothing, socks and sleeves- you get to choose what works for you.

Light & Electrical Stimulation Therapies

Most often found in Sports Medicine and PT Clinics these higher-tech therapies are also out there for you to explore. To use these more complex recovery tools do some research or seek out the appropriate professionals!