Whether a weekend warrior, or an elite competitor, recovery is an essential part of a healthy routine for body and mind. Muscle recovery is the phase is where your body “rebuilds” your muscles after micro-damage to the muscle fibers, which naturally occurs after a rigorous workout or exercise. This is normal, and necessary for muscle rebuild and growth.
Here are some proven tactics to speed up muscle recovery after a long run, or rigorous exercise.
Like everything, recovery requires consistency to work effectively and consistently to deliver the best results.
Get plenty of sleep to give your body enough time to recover and help mitigate risks to injuries in the future. While the exact relationship between sleep and exercise is still unclear, research suggests that a lack of sleep can negatively effect performance and recovery. Sleep impacts not just the muscles, but entire body and its systems including the vital organs, metabolism, immune function and mood. So the benefits of sleep go beyond just muscle recovery.
You should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Dehydrated muscles can quickly become painful, as we all know. Drinking water after a workout can help prevent dehydration while helping to rid your body of metabolic waste. Drink a at least a couple of liters of water on days when you exercise.
According to the American Council on Exercise, one should drink at least 8 ounces 30 minutes after exercise.
Research shows that eating protein post-exercise help reduce the severity of muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery. Protein is important in exercise performance and recovery as it boosts glycogen storage, reducing muscle soreness and promoting muscle repair. For this reason, it’s common to see people in gyms consuming protein bars or whey shakes during and after exercises as they seek to increase the impact of their workouts. It’s also important to mix this protein with carbohydrates as it helps your body to absorb the protein and turn it into more muscle mass.
Topical creams can be effective for soothing muscle pain and helping you recover from a rigorous exercise session. Though there are many gels and creams on the market, most of them work in the same way. They utilize ingredients like menthol and camphor to produce cool and hot sensations, countering the irritation in your muscles. This can provide instant, albeit temporary relief as the cold and warming effects block pain signals from traveling to the brain. Thee act of massaging the cream into the skin also helps to increase blood flow, which also helps promote healing and recovery for the muscles.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help relieve the discomfort from soreness, and can accelerate recovery time. Always follow the labelled instructions, and do not use persistently without consulting your physician.
Ice and Cryotherapy
Soreness and inflammation is a natural consequence of exercise, training and recovery. But if you overdo it, excess inflammation can lead to an injury. Ice, cold packs or cryotherapy can help slow or stop that process that leads to inflammation, resulting in a lower risk of muscle soreness and injury.
Cold can also help with existing injuries. Applying ice or a cold pack to an injury can help reduce swelling and inflammation and speed recovery time. Icing causes the blood vessels to contract which forces out the metabolic waste. This helps decrease soreness after a workout, ultimately encouraging faster recovery.
Icing down after workouts speeds recovery, resulting in higher performance workout next time.
Stretching is one of the best things you can do to prevent injury and aid muscle recovery. Static stretching (stretching a single muscle group) helps to increase range of motion at the joints that connect muscles together. These stretches are essential in performing a range of everyday and athletic movements such as running, lifting, many athletic motions and indeed, daily activities.
What’s even better than static stretching though, is something called dynamic stretching, which engages more than one muscle group at a time. Dynamic stretching increases blood flow and warms up muscles, which is crucial to athletic performance.
Much of the soreness associated with exercise occurs when our muscles and fascia — the connective tissue in the body — become “knotted.” Foam rollers are effective, affordable tools for rubbing out these sore spots in your muscles, breaking up scar tissue and this knotting in your fascia, releaving sore muscles and joints.
Some of the newer foam rollers have vibrating features, combining pressure and a vibrating massage in one device. Some studies have indicated that the vibrating foam rollers increased participants’ pain tolerance.
Much research has been conducted over the years on the benefits of massage related to athletics, with evident benefits, including stress relief, relaxation, reduce muscle tension, soreness and recovery time. A particular study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, found that massage therapy reduces inflammation and soreness, and promotes the growth of new mitochondria, improving endurance and performance, and shortening recovery time.
By having a massage regularly, athletes can keep their muscles healthy, improve their flexibility, maintain a state of relaxation and even result in improved sleep.
Compression garments have become a popular item for gym users and elite competitors, due to their comfort, fashion and physiological and psychological benefits. More importantly though their ability to support and accelerate recovery and improve performance has brought them even more to the fore as meaningful sports recovery solution.
While still early and somewhat incomplete, current research suggests that compression garments may provide a host of benefits for recovery including: Improved blood circulation; metabolic waste removal; reduced swelling, and decrease muscle recovery time, especially strength recovery, after rigorous exercise. Consequently, compression garments remain a generally recommended tool for enhancing performance and recovery.
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