When you love working out it’s often frustrating to take days off in order to rest and recover. It’s also crucial. Proper rest and recovery will give you far better results and along the way help to prevent injuries from over-training. And when you think about it getting injured is far worse than taking a couple of days off.
Granted that rest and recovery is a critical part of any workout routine, is there any way to speed it up, or at least make your recovery more effective? The good news for workout-aholics the world over is that with a simple workout recovery routine you’ll get back into the gym and punishing those muscles again quicker than ever.
Recover Faster from Your Workout
Have at least one passive recovery day per week.
At least once per week, kick your feet up and relax, have a full day off to rest and recover completely. Passive recovery means not doing anything more strenuous than say a brisk walk, preferably in your pjs and on your way to whip up a delicious snack before a 6 hour movie marathon – just us?
Try 1 – 2 active recovery days per week.
There is debate as to whether active recovery – if it’s after 1 hour of exercise – actually helps recovery since delayed onset of muscular soreness (DOMS) is thought to be caused by micro-trauma rather than lactic acid; these are the tiny tears in the muscle which eventually lead to firmer muscles.
Still, some people swear by active recovery, so we’ve kept it in; it could help eliminate metabolic by-products through increased circulation. Try adding 1 – 2 days of active recovery, 40% – 60% of your normal workout intensity (it should get the blood pumping, but shouldn’t fatigue you), and see if it helps your recovery times.
Add in 30 – 60 seconds of active recovery between sets.
The best place to put your active recovery is between your sets, because acute muscle soreness – the burn you feel when doing intense exercise – is caused by the accumulation of the metabolic by-products of exercise (e.g. lactic acid).
Active recovery done after a set – e.g. light jogging on the spot after a set of squats – promotes the elimination of these by-products, which means a faster recovery for you.
Take a whole week off.
When you’re working out like a workaholic, from time to time it’s good to take a little longer rest period, for example, 1 to 2 weeks every few months.
The reason for this is that it gives your central nervous system (CNS) some quality time to recover, your ligaments and tendons time to recover and helps offset the adaptation your body has made to your workouts (which can lead to plateaus). When you start back up, you’ll be motivated, fully rested and ready to hit it hard again – like a beast!
Never skimp on those Z’s. And when you’re working out it’s even more important to get enough time between the sheets. Sleep – especially deep sleep – is when your body repairs and rebuilds itself – essential for repairing those little tears in your muscles. The key to a great recovery is to get a really good night’s sleep.
Drinking water is good for you, and because it helps flush metabolic by-products from your body it also aids in your recovery.
Don’t work out the same muscle groups every day.
If you’re lifting heavy – and if you’re not, why not? – then you’ve got to give your muscles time to repair. In other words, if you did an intense leg workout yesterday, switch it up and do an upper-body workout today.
Regular mediators are just more chilled than your average person. Most of them swear by the practice, and science has found that it’s just good for you. Not only that, but because it is so restful (some states of meditation can be deeper than sleep) some studies have found that it actually decreases the need for sleep.
Stress inhibits recovery (especially of the CNS), so the more relaxed you are the faster you’ll recover. Don’t know how to meditate, no problem, here’s a really simple guide to meditation.
Eat protein before bed.
Studies have shown that eating a small protein snack before bed will improve your overnight recovery. Proteins are the nutritional building blocks for lean muscle, but while you’re asleep – unless you suffer from this – you won’t be getting much protein at all. Grab a quick high-protein snack before you hit the hay.
Get in a protein-packed pre- or post-workout meal.
If you want to boost your recovery speed, then make sure you get in some high-quality protein before and after your workouts. A protein-packed pre-workout snack will flood your body with those all-important amino acids and start off muscle synthesis – building and growing muscle – even while you’re working out. And getting protein after your workout will make sure your body has the nutrients it needs to repair the muscle long after you’ve left the gym.
Hit the foam roller.
Foam rollers are great for self-myofascial release. Say what? It’s basically self-massage; studies have shown that those who foam roll you have less muscle soreness than those who don’t; further, the findings seem to suggest that post-workout foam rolling speeds recovery.
Remember your omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which is exactly what you want to do when you’re recovering from an intense workout since that inflammation contributes to those sore muscles. Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3’s from fish oil supplements or whole foods like almonds, salmon, avocados, grass-fed butter, etc.
Contrast bath anyone?
You’re not going to catch us doing this any time soon, but the contrast bath (a.k.a. hot-cold immersion therapy) has been shown to aid workout recovery by reducing inflammation. Incidentally, the same study suggests that using an ice bath is actually detrimental to the recovery process – oh no, we were so looking forward to that!
On a more practical level, you could try contrast showers: alternate from warm water, to cold water, then back to warm again. Or you could try the same principle with an ice-pack and warm water-bottle: 5 minutes cold, 5 minutes hot.
Down some tart cherry juice.
This study suggests that tart cherry juice aids recovery of muscle function. Tart cherry juice drinkers (TCJD’s from now on, we’re not sure it’ll catch on) recovered isometric strength significantly faster, and had less inflammation than the boring non-cherry juice drinkers. You know what this means, it’s time to get your cherry on!
Cool down after your workout.
Cooling down isn’t some kind of strange fitness ritual, it can actually help you recover faster too. The gentle movements help to squeeze out all the workout metabolic by-products – the things which make you go ouch later – and it also helps to relax your muscles by working out tightness and adhesions. In other words, if you want to stay cool, make sure you do a cool down.
Supplement with branch-chain amino acids.
Amino acids are critical for workout recovery since they’re literally the building blocks required to repair and grow your muscle. Branch-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are known as the essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) because they cannot be manufactured by the body, therefore they must come from your diet. Supplementation with BCAA’s has also been [found] to aid muscle recovery as well as strengthen your immune system. You can get a good BCCA supplement from Amazon and take them before, during and after your workouts.
Love or hate your rest days? How do you recover from your workouts? Let us know in the comment section.