8 Great Recovery Practices
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
LifeTime WeightLoss in Exercise, Heart rate variability, Stress and Sleep, exercise recovery, fitness recovery, massage

Many fitness enthusiasts pride themselves on how often they get to the gym each week. To boot, many of them work as hard as possible when training. 

Whether it's running with the Running Club, training hard while listening to energetic music in a Group Fitness Class or getting sore while lifting weights, they find a great deal of post-workout satisfaction knowing they pushed themselves and challenged their limits. 

As great as it is to work hard, sweat freely and tire your muscles with each training session, however, there's another key but often overlooked workout component: applying good recovery techniques.

Recovery is probably so undervalued because many of the techniques don't require hard work or even sound challenging. However, if you take the time to incorporate recovery techniques into your workout, they will accelerate your progress. Here are eight proven recovery techniques that can enhance your fitness program. 

Use Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

While it's beyond the scope of this article to go over HRV in detail (read more on HRV here), I'll give you a quick description of what it is and how to use it.

The HRV device Life Time Fitness offers in their clubs is a heart rate strap that communicates with an app you can download on a smart phone and/or tablet.

For application, use it first thing in the morning when you wake up. Put the strap on, lie down on your back, and turn on the app. The app will pick up your heart beat and count down from 2.5 minutes, giving you a physical readiness score for the day (Green, Amber or Red color with a score). If you receive a "red" score, you'll want to spend your workout time using one of the recovery methods described below.

Active Recovery

This is the most basic form of recovery. Simply exercise in Zone 1 (less than 130-140 beats per minute for most people reading this) for 20-30 minutes. 

This form of recovery enhances circulation through the body. The best machines to use for this technique include the bike and elliptical, as it's best to minimize impact on your joints.

Self-Myofascial Release 

This can be done before or after a workout, but for the purpose of this article I'll describe how it should be done following a workout or later in the evening before bed.

For most people, the easiest way to practice self-myofascial release is to apply a foam roller or stick for self-massage. Muscles that can be foam rolled include the calves, peroneals, hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors, lats and upper back. 

All you do is pick one or more muscles to massage (usually the ones you trained) and apply pressure to that muscle with the roller using your body weight. Roll the muscle for 30-60 seconds and then move on to the next muscle area.

Static Stretching  

This form of stretching is best used right after you finish your workout or right before you go to bed. All the muscles described in the "Self-Myofacial Release" section above can be stretched as well as many others.

When using this form of stretching, pick a muscle or group of muscles to stretch and hold each one for 30-45 seconds. Performing 1-2 sets for a few problem muscle groups is usually all that is needed.

Ice Massage

When readers think of ice massage, they often envision athletes applying ice after they injured themselves during a game. What most people don’t realize is you can use ice massage to prevent injuries from happening and to speed up recovery time between workouts.

All you need to do is freeze water in some paper Dixie cups and gently rub the muscles you trained in a circular pattern for 5-10 minutes. Please avoid going over this amount of time as it could cause frostbite.

Cold Water Swimming/Floating 

I began incorporating this technique after reading about it in Joel Jamieson's Ultimate Guide to HRV Training. What you do is lightly swim laps in the pool for about ten minutes. Once that time elapses, grab a floatation device like a noodle and float for ten minutes. If you don’t mind getting wet, this is a relaxing recovery technique.

Contrast Showers

There are training facilities around the country that have showers and whirlpools/swimming pools close together to get the most out of this technique. However, most people can get a start with their shower at home.

Turn your shower as hot as you can withstand it (without scalding yourself!) for 1-2 minutes. After this time, turn the water as cold as possible and go half as long as you went during the first phase. Repeat this pattern a few more rounds as time permits.  

Massage 

If you can afford a professional massage once or more each month, it's well worth the money.

There are many forms of massage that can be used for recovery. For some people, a light lympathic massage can go a long way. Other readers might need deep tissue massage. A third group may have to find skilled therapists who are trained in ART or Rolfing.

Whichever variety you choose, massage helps break up adhesions in the muscles and can increase blood flow to speed recovery. Finally, it can have a powerful relaxing effect on the mind and decrease overall stress

As effective (and even enjoyable) as the above methods are, many people don’t use them because they claim they don't have time. However, many of these same people often end up getting injured at some point and have to avoid the gym altogether as a result. Others overtrain and don't offer themselves adequate recovery, thereby stunting their weight loss or fitness progress.

Find time to incorporate one or more of the above techniques for 5-10 minutes after your workout, prior to going to bed or on a non-training day. Practicing good recovery methods will help you will stay injury-free and will help you reap optimal gains in your weight loss and fitness endeavors. 

Thanks for reading. Would you like more information on incorporating fitness recovery into your routine? Talk with one of our fitness professionals today. 

In health, Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer and Metabolic Specialist

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

Article originally appeared on LifeTime WeightLoss (http://www.lifetime-weightloss.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.