We recently discussed recovery on our sister site, Jackeddad.com, but here’s a complementary piece written by Virginia Cunningham, a fitness writer and yoga practicioner, that offers another perspective. Enjoy! – Bill
Best Post-Workout Treatments
When you do over ninety minutes of intense exercise in the gym, it’s an absolutely punishing experience for your body. What you’re essentially doing is tearing yourself down, so that your body will build itself back up, making it stronger than before.
It’s a healthy, effective and necessary aspect of our training and fitness, but it’s only one part of the process.
The second, and equally necessary aspect, is our recovery time.
The Recovery Period
It’s conventional wisdom that you don’t work the same muscle groups two days in a row; why? Because if you do, you’re interfering with the recovery period, which is the time that your muscles are building themselves back up after the initial workout, or tear down.
While it’s true that this recovery period happens naturally, not impeding it by further straining the same muscle groups isn’t the only thing we need to keep in mind.
After a workout, we need to optimize our recovery period by taking care of our bodies, managing pain and making sure we give it everything it needs to do its job. That means we’ll be more likely to avoid soreness, injury and unproductive workouts.
These are the essential components of a healthy and well-facilitated recovery period:
1. Post workout meals and nutrients — After you workout, your body is in need of two basic things: protein and carbohydrates. The sooner you’re able to get those things into your body, the more effective your recovery will be.
The best way to get them is to simply eat a well-rounded meal. Odds are that you didn’t eat much before your workout (if you did, that was a mistake), so by the time you’re finished in the gym, you’re going to be hungry anyway.
Try to eat within the first couple hours of your workout ending, as that’s when your body will need the nutrients the most.
2. Hot and Cold Showers — Alternating between hot and cold water in the shower four or five times can help your muscles recover. Try 30 seconds of cold water, followed by two minutes of hot water (but not scorching). This is particularly helpful if you’re dealing with sore muscles or back spasms.
3. Rest and Sleep — If you get a good workout in, but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep, you’re going to make it pretty hard on your body to recover and will probably feel a lot less energized next time you go to work out.
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important aspects of your workout and recovery, so make sure you’re getting it, particularly on the nights after you’ve hit the gym really hard.
4. Epsom Salt Baths — Epsom salt, when included in a hot bath, is actually absorbed through the skin and will help to cut down on soreness and other muscle aches. If you have days when you’re particularly sore or beat up, this is a great way to speed up recovery, and just to help your body feel better overall.
Making it Easy for Your Body
When discussing post-workout treatments, you always want to think in terms of making a recovery easy for your body. In addition to making certain that you’re not impeding it, you need to go the extra step and make an effort to facilitate it. If you do, your body will recover better, and your workout will count for more in the long term.
Virginia Cunningham is a writer and yoga enthusiast whose writing shares her knowledge of health, fitness and alternative therapies. After a particularly intense workout, she always makes sure she recovers properly in order to be ready for her next day of training.
Sometimes, I an ice bath for recovery. I soak into ice water (up to chest level) for 1 minute for 3 times. Is there any difference in the result of ice baths compared to hot and cold showers?