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Techniques and Exercises for Recovery


Here is the part 2 of the last week´s recovery guest post by Nate Martins. It has been originally published on HVMN.Click here to read the previous post.

Techniques and Exercises for Recovery


Let’s get into the specifics of what you can do to help the body recover faster. By using exercises targeted at certain muscles, not only will those muscles recover faster–they’ll also get stronger in the process.

Active Recovery: Getting Stronger and Building Muscle



This type of recovery focuses on exercise intensity at low-to-moderate levels. Studies have shown that it’s best for the performance of endurance athletes.26 Active recovery is successful mostly due to its ability to more rapidly remove blood lactate, facilitating blood flow and giving the body the ability to process excess lactate produced during periods of intense exercise.27


Cross training is also a great way to engage in active recovery while enhancing aerobic fitness without putting the body through the same stress as your normal workouts. Try:

Cycling: The motion is similar to running without the joint impact. Ride at an easy pace in the low-intensity zone (around 120 - 140 heart rate)
Yoga: A beginner’s class should do just fine. Practicing basic yoga through online videos is sufficient, using poses such as sun salutation (to boost circulation and release tightness) and warriors one and two (to activate thigh and calf muscles while helping stretch hips)

Plyometrics: Even 15 - 30 minutes of bodyweight exercises can help boost circulation while stretching muscles. They’ve even been shown to increase sprint performance.28 Try exercises like planks, calf raises and lunges.

Ice Baths: Taking the Plunge


Some athletes and coaches swear by ice baths, with trainers mandating post-practice cold water immersion (CWI). They consider ice baths essential to helping tired muscles, and feeling better for the next intense training sessions.



The idea here is that cold therapy constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, reducing swelling and tissue breakdown, flushing metabolic debris from the muscle.

But one study showcased that the “hypothesized physiological benefits surrounding CWI are at least partly placebo related.”29 This suggests that if you think ice baths help, then they may have a beneficial impact on recovery and subsequent training.

If you’d like to try an ice bath, fill a tub or large container with water, enough to submerge your hips. Add enough ice so the temperature of the water drops to about 55 degrees. Then sit in the bath for about 15 minutes.

Stretching & Foam Rolling: Increase Range of Motion



Stretching is important both before and after a workout because exercise can shorten muscles, decreasing mobility. Stretching helps flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to work in their full range of motion.30 One study found that hamstring flexibility led to increased muscle performance.31



Post-workout stretches are often forgotten by athletes in a rush, but it’s essential to account for these stretches in a training schedule. Generally, it’s best to hold stretches for about 30 seconds and repeat each once or twice. Target these muscles, which usually take a beating from a variety of workouts:
Piriformis, Chest and Anterior Deltoids, Hamstrings, Lats, Quads and Lower Back.

Complementary to stretching, foam rollers help sore muscles,32 and they can be used on almost
every muscle in the body.

Our muscles go through a constant state of breakdown, then repair. Fascia, the connective tissue surrounding our muscles, gets thick and short over time because the body is attempting to protect itself from more damage. Sometimes, trigger points form–sore spots, caused by fascia contraction, need release.

Ultimately, this affects range of movement and causes soreness.

Foam rolling (called myofascial release) can help release those muscular trigger points, and as one study found, can lead to overall improvement in athletic performance.33 The result is decreased muscle and joint pain, and increased mobility.

Selecting a foam roller depends on your needs; a larger roller can allow you fuller sessions (meaning, if it’s large enough, you can lie on the foam roller and do some great shoulder / upper back workouts). A denser roller will also mean a more intense massage.

Target these often overused areas: glutes, iliotibial band (IT band), lower back, shoulders and sides.

Technology: All the Data You Need

While technology and wearables can’t directly help with recovery, they’re able to gather important data that may inform recovery techniques. Being able to track aspects of training, sleep, heart rate and hydration can provide insight into how the best tackle specificities of recovery.


Hydration: Wearables like Nobo B60 and Hydra Alert help monitor hydration through different means, but mostly through sensors. Nobo is like a watch, mounted to the wrist or calf, while the Hydra Alert is placed in a urinal or toilet to monitor hydration through urine. However, many of these types of devices haven’t been independently validated for accuracy.

Training: It seems there are countless devices to measure training. The IMeasureU is versatile, using motion data to track training. Similar to hydration wearables though, there isn’t clinical validation for this technology.

Heart Rate and Breathing: The Hexoskin is like a smart t-shirt with electrocardiogram (ECG) and breathing sensors, along with an accelerometer. This measures heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing rate, steps, etc.

Sleep: Many training devices also can monitor sleep. These devices can illuminate what we don’t know happens during our sleep, and can also showcase our sleeping patterns to help us understand why we may be waking up so tired. The Fitbit Charge 2 is especially responsive to monitoring sleep, and has been validated through a third-party study.34
Understanding our inputs with data provides us with a way to maximize our outputs and reach peak performance–even in recovery.

Recovery is the First Step to Better Training

Recovery takes time and dedication; it often gets overlooked in workout schedules because it isn’t accounted for.

Active recovery, sleep and diet can be used to kickstart the recovery process and make training more effective.

The best training starts with mindful recovery to help muscles rebuild for the next training session. This, ultimately, can improve training by putting your body in the best position to perform. The process of muscle breakdown happens during exercise; immediately after, the process of muscle restoration and strengthening begins–you could be compromising gainful training by skipping these all-important techniques to help the body rebuild.



Until next time,

Jennikatja

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