The Importance of a Post-Workout Recovery
A quality post-workout recovery plan is essential for prolonged high performance. If you do not give your body what it needs to recover and regain energy, you will not be able to perform at your highest level. It is as simple as this: poor recovery leads to more frequent injuries. Injuries limit the frequency you are able to train, therefore restricting you from reaching your optimum performance level.
Methods of Post-Workout Recovery
- Refuel – Consume the proper nutrients as soon as possible after your workout. Included in your post-workout refueling should be carbs, protein, and fluids/electrolytes. Carbs to replenish muscle fuel stores, protein to promote muscle repair, and fluids/electrolytes for rehydration. For more info on each of refueling, check out our Hydration and Carb Loading articles.
- Cryotherapy – Because most athletes do not have access to cryotherapy chambers, the most practical form of cryotherapy is usually an ice bath. When use get in an ice bath, your blood vessels constrict, when you get out, they open back up. This process allows your body to flush out metabolic waste after training. This increased circulation also helps transport nutrients and oxygen to further increase recovery. Contrast water therapy is a popular method of water therapy. This method involves alternating between cold and hot water to constantly constrict and dilate your blood vessels, theoretically maximizing the process above.
- Massaging the muscles – Massaging your muscles is an effective way to reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and reduce muscle tightness. Paying for a professional massage can be expensive, and doing so on a regular basis can really add up. A cost effective way to capitalize on the benefits of massages is to purchase a foam roller that you can use at home, or find a gym that has them.
- Stretching – Stretching your primary muscle groups increases blood flow and circulation, as well as improves posture and alignment. After a workout, your muscles will be stiff. Stretching them helps to increase flexibility and get back to the range of motion prior to your workout. More range of motion also means less risk of injury during your next workout.
A post-workout recovery plan should be taken just as seriously as your workout, and your recovery plan should not be limited to what you do immediately after training. Factors such as sleep, rest days, and supplemental training methods such as yoga should also be considered for recovery and injury prevention. Below are links to materials with further information on these areas of recovery.
Why Rest Days are Just as Important as Working Out by Katie Rosenbrock