One of the most important aspects of post workout recovery is sleep. Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for athletes, as it helps the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Recovery nights should be planned in advance, with a focus on getting a longer than normal sleep in order to aid healing and prevent injury. Although it varies from person to person, somewhere between 7 -10 hrs is ideal. It is also important to avoid drinking alcohol before bed, as this can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. Other tips for sleep hygiene include avoiding caffeine in the evening, maintaining a cool and comfortable environment in your bedroom, and disconnecting from electronics screens at least 30 minutes before sleep.
Another key element of post workout recovery is nutrition. Eating the right foods can help to replenish energy stores, repair muscle tissue, promote muscle growth and reduce inflammation. A balanced meal containing good quality lean protein (plant or animal based), wholegrain and fiber-rich carbohydrates and healthy fats is ideal, and there are many great recipes available online that fit this criteria. Don't skimp on the fruits and vegetables either - remember 5 serves or vegetables and 2 serves a fruit each day is the goal. Recovery smoothies packed with goodies like green leafies and seeds or nuts are also a great option for those who don’t have time to cook a full meal and can be drunk on the go. What we eat is our fuel so making sure it's healthy can be key to improving our performance and boosting our energy.
Finally, using massage tools such as foam rollers and lacrosse balls can help to release tension in the muscles and promote blood flow. This can aid in recovery by helping the muscles to repair themselves more quickly. Recovery tools are readily available online or at most sporting goods stores. When using massage balls or rollers , it is important to start slowly and increase the pressure gradually. Be sure to focus on areas that feel especially tight or uncomfortable, and avoid any areas that are injured or sore. Recovery massage should not be painful (just uncomfortable), so if you feel any pain stop immediately and book in to see a physiotherapist if it persists.
Some people swear by massage guns , which can be a great tool for recovery if used correctly. We've written about these before here if you do want to find out more!
Hot Water and Ice Baths
Another great way to promote recovery is to alternate between hot and cold water immersion, also known as contrast therapy. The method involves alternating between periods of hot and cold water immersion. The hot water helps to increase blood flow and loosen muscles, while the cold water helps to reduce inflammation and pain. If you don't have a bath, even just adjusting your shower to do a period or hot and cold can be helpful!
Although there are lots of supplements on the market, there isn't much good quality evidence for many of them. However the latest research shows that there are a few that can be effective in aiding recovery. Creatine is a supplement that has been shown to help with muscle growth and repair, while caffeine can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Recovery supplements should be used in addition to a healthy diet, not as a replacement for good nutrition.
Last but not least, don't forget to stretch! Stretching helps to lengthen the muscles, which can prevent stiffness and soreness. It is important to focus on both static (holding a position for 20-30 seconds) and dynamic (moving through a range of motion) stretches. Dynamic stretches are great for warming up before exercise, while static stretches are ideal for cooling down afterwards. A good rule of thumb is to stretch for about 20-30 seconds per muscle group.
There are lots of great resources available online with stretching routines that you can follow, or you can book in to see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can create a tailored program for you.
Do you have a favourite post workout routine? Let us know in the comments below! Our physiotherapists are always happy to talk to you about improving performance and maximising your post workout or training routine. You can book in with one of them here, or speak with our friendly Tarragindi team on 07 3706 3407.