Proper recovery is an essential part of an athlete’s training program, but it is often underutilized in attempts to maximize performance. Athletes should participate in recovery immediately following their workout as well as have a dedicated recovery day about once a week.
Immediate recovery should consist of:
1. Proper Nutrition: Post-workout meals that consist of protein and carbohydrates will help replenish the body’s depleted glycogen stores and restore muscle protein synthesis. Examples of good post-workout recovery foods include salmon, tuna, rice, pasta, nuts, and oatmeal.
2. Cooling the Body’s Core Temperature: Cooling the body’s damaged tissues can limit the extent of muscle soreness by decreasing the tissues need for oxygen and limit secondary hypoxic injury to the micro tears in the muscle.
A dedicated recovery day should consist of:
1. Heat modalities or light cardiovascular exercise: This will increase the blood flow, bring oxygen-rich blood to the recovering tissues, and rid the body of metabolic waste products. Examples of heat modalities include a hot tub, sauna, and steam room. Light cardiovascular exercises should include non-pounding measure such as a stationary bike or elliptical.
2. Massage or stretching of the muscles: Self-myofascial release (foam rolling) is an excellent way to massage deep muscles that are not easily reached through static stretching. Stretching the muscles helps to bring them back to a normal length and tension.
Taking a little bit of time after each workout for proper recovery may seem minor, but it will make the difference between hitting a wall and improving as an athlete.