Does a hard workout have you flat on your back? It’s time to recover!
On paper, it seems like recovery would be easiest part of an athlete’s job, yet it appears to allude so many people. Recovery often gets overlooked, cut short, or completely ignored. Recovery isn’t glamorous. In a world in which we often praise hard work, tough interval sets, and “the grind,” talking about recovery doesn’t often lead to high fives. But it should.
Recovery is just as important as the hard work itself. In fact, without the recovery the hard work can’t be utilized. Your body won’t “soak in” the efforts. It cannot build itself up and over time it won’t be able to push itself as hard. Recovering hard literally allow yourself to train harder.
For many people this is a learning curve. It is hard enough to fit in a good workout, so carving out time to recover feels like a luxury that cannot be afforded by most. I’ve certainly felt that way before. The best way I could force myself to recover was to set a routine and count it as a part of the workout.
Here is a list of my 8 best recovery strategies. It might be hard to fit them in at first, but when you start seeing the results, you’ll never want to neglect recovery again!
- Recovery Nutrition
There is really no excuse for neglecting recovery nutrition. It’s quick and delicious. You can even take your nutrition on the go.
Everyone is different so I recommend speaking with a nutritionist or coach if you are really interested in optimizing your own recovery and performance, but personally, I reach for a GU recovery drink after my workouts. After a hard workout I try to get in 25-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes. I also make sure that I get in a carb source that is rich in glucose.
Studies have shown that carbs and protein together post-exercise can help to reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
That said, if you have an easy workout or an active recovery day then you are already focusing the day on recovery. There is not necessarily a need for recovery nutrition after those types of workouts. If you are working hard and feel fatigued after though, reach for your favorite recovery fuel.
Napping is the superhero of recovery strategies and I used to be the biggest doubter of all. I don’t like naps. Even as an infant I would fight hard against a little day time snooze. Who wants to miss out on all the excitement of the day? No one!
Naps are so valuable though! If you can squeeze in a nap during your day you’re likely to reap big rewards. According to Dr. Amy Bender on Triathlete.com, during sleep your body releases different hormones that help repair and build muscles and other tissues in the body.
A recovery nap can be anywhere from 20-90 minutes in length. Not only will it help to repair your body, but it’ll force you to quiet your mind. You won’t be able to fall asleep if your mind is still moving at hundred miles a minute.
- Legs on the wall
If you don’t have any fancy recovery equipment, you can always throw your legs up on the wall for 10-15 minutes. Make sure your back is flat on the ground and your hips are all the way up against the wall. This simple exercise can help reduce swelling (excessive fluid).
Make sure you wait a couple of minutes after this before you just stand right back up.
- NormaTec Boots
I love my NormaTec boots. In general, compression pumps can help increase tissue oxygenation, nutrient exchange, and metabolic waste removal. Personally, I try to get in my boots within an hour after finishing exercise, but there are only so many things you can fit into that hour recovery window so I do what I can.
If nothing else, sitting in my boots forces me to be stationary, put my feet up and keeps me from staying on my feet.
Stretching is an oldie but goodie. I always used to fight against stretching because I have always been very flexible. It felt like I didn’t need to stretch if I could already achieve all of those difficult stretching positions, but that isn’t true. Taking that extra time to work on my flexibility and mobility wasn’t just about touching my toes. Including stretching in my post-ride routine has really made big difference.
- Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is great for both recovery and injury prevention. Foam rolling can help reduce trigger points and reduce soreness.
When you foam roll, don’t roll back and forth on the roller like you are kneading bread. Instead, just roll a couple of inches per second until you find a tender spot. When on the tender spot, stop and hold the pressure on that point.
- Massage Gun
Bust out the massage gun! A percussion device like a massage gun helps increase blood flow to muscles which can help with recovery and circulation. Plus, your muscles just feel so relaxed and supple after!
Last but not least, practice some mindfulness. I usually do this by practicing breathing exercises. The mind and body are most definitely connected so by spending some time working on your mind, your body will reap the benefits as well.
Train Hard. Recovery Hard. Repeat.
Make recovery a part of your routine. You don’t have to do all of these strategies every day or every workout! Just pick one or a couple that make you feel the best. Be proud of yourself for recovering well!