Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Steps to Efficient Muscle Recovery

Last week was crazy to say the least - after a three-a-day Tuesday and a 4-peat on Wednesday I was worried my body might have had about all that it can handle. But, surprisingly even to me, I was able to complete our normal Thursday 4.6 mile run at an easy 9:38 pace and even managed a 14-mile bike ride with the family later that morning.

How does my body press on through all that activity? It's not luck, it is partly conditioning but it's all proper recovery.

So many things we do (in and out of the gym) impact our bodies ability to recover properly by:
reducing the risk of over training
reducing the risk of injury
Resulting in:
enhanced performance
increased quality and quantity of training.

It is important to understand that each persons rate of recovery will vary. Adapting these habits does not mean that 2-a-days are the right answer for everyone.  These habits, however, will give you the ability to work a little harder, recover a little quicker, and see results a little sooner.

Here are the 5 things I do to make sure I am adequately prepared for days when classes pop-up unexpectedly or a planned 12-mile run accidentally turns into 17 when I get lost (yes, it's happened).

5 Steps to Efficient Muscle Recovery.

1. Sleep!

I can't stress this enough to you - sleep has a profound effect on physical well-being and muscle growth. While asleep your body alternates between two forms of sleep: rapid eye movement, or REM, and non-REM sleep. This cycle repeats several times throughout the night. While REM sleep provides the energy to the brain that supports it during waking hours and is necessary for restoring the mind, stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep, are essential for restoring the body (organs, tissues, muscles) . 

You are considered sleep deprived if you get less that 4 hours of sleep - the National Sleep Foundations recommends 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night. Find your optimal and get there more often than you don't.


2. Drink plenty of water.

We hear it over and over - drink more water, drink more water - and yet, nearly 50% of Americans don't get enough. Our muscles are 75% water, so when you are more active you need even more water - it's crucial to muscle development and keeping water retention to a minimum. 

I shoot for 1/2 my body weight in ounces, and for every hour of exercise I refuel with 16-20 oz (or more) of water to replenish what I've lost. This is in addition to the 16-24oz I drink during my workout. 

There is a reason we can survive 30 days without food but only 4-10 without water. 

Fit it in.


3. Massage.

According to a recent study, massage not only makes you feel better, it helps speed up muscle recovery. Whether it's via foam roller, tennis balls or a massage therapist, regular massage reduces stiffness and inflammation, removes knots (adhesions), scar tissue and restrictions in the fascia (the tissue that wraps around larger muscle bundles, such as biceps or quads).

I used to be against the monthly membership options out there - who wants a massage to become a chore that they have to schedule in? After going almost a year without a massage and wondering whether or not I'd even get a good one when I got around to finding a place, I caved and joined the monthly membership. 

Probably the best fitness decision I've ever made! I feel great all the time, and have someone who really knows my body and works with me on my most troubled spots, without having to spend the first 10 minutes of the hour in a getting to know you session.

4. Reduce Stress.

I know - exercise to reduce stress...but too much stress isn't good for exercise? What is going on here?!

Many of us react to a stressful situation with our muscular system. Our shoulder muscles tense, our necks get tense -- whether we are mindful of it or not, our bodies are going into "flight or fight" mode. And each time a muscle is tensed it takes 20 minutes for it to fully relax again. If you have 75 moments of mini-stressors throughout the day (I haven't finished that report, I lost my keys, I forgot to call my mom.....) your body never full relaxes and your muscles never fully recover.

This is a hard one for some people - external stress is often beyond our control. But what we can control is the way we react to it. It takes time, but it can be done. For example: get in the habit of always putting your keys in the same spot. Create your own internal deadline and hold yourself to it.

One investment that I made was the Simply Being meditation app - if I'm having a stressful moment or day, I either close my office door or go out to my car on my lunch break, close out the world and tune into my breathing and my body. It's give me a new calm and I often come back with a new perspective on the situation. Even if I only have time for 10 minutes, it makes a huge difference in the rest of my day.

5. Cool down & Stretch

Easily the most underrated part of a workout. If you don't have time to cool down properly, schedule it into your workout time.

A 5-15 minute cool down/stretch post-workout will not only get your heart rate and core body temperatures back to normal slowly, it will allow the blood to properly move through your heart and body, giving your muscles time to get oxygen and blood flowing back through them. 

Not giving the blood time to properly redistribute can lead to more than just dizziness and nausea (the most common side effects) - it can also lead to blood pooling around the muscles in your legs and inflammation.

You can do this by slowly jogging, marching or walking in place. Static stretching is also a necessary final step, helping eliminate muscle soreness and fatigue.

A good rule of thumb: the harder your workout, the longer the cool down and stretch should be.

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