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Post-Exercise Recovery Tips: Exercise is great for stress reduction, improving cardio-vascular fitness, weight-loss, confidence and so much more, but it's what happens after your exercise session that can determine whether you can continue to make gains. Recovery sessions are probably the most overlooked aspect of a fitness programme. In this week's blog, I'd like to share with you some of my tips for getting the most from a recovery session, whether it be same day, or on your off day. 

Here's my approach: 

Exercise Specific Stretching (ESS)I do a lot of High Intensity Interval Traning (H.I.I.T) and weight lifting so I tend to include lots of range of motion exercises into a packed 45mins. For instance, if I'm doing a bench press, I'll quickly follow with a stretch for the pectoralis muscles, i.e., chest muscles. That could be as simple as extending my arms behind me, with thumbs up until you feel the stretch through the chest, and hold for 10-15 seconds. The stretch will depend on the exercise you're doing, but in general, including the stretch as part of the exercise routine will help to reduce DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. 

Cold Water Therapy (CWT): I include Cold water therapy after my sessions at the gym. This is as simple as immersing myself in a cold water plunge pool for anything from seconds to a minute or more. I do this because blood vessels dilate during exercise to accommodate the increased blood flow around the body. Cold water has the effect of bringing the heart rate down, reducing inflammation and speeding recovery.

 

Breathing exercises: Before, during and after exercise, I focus on my breath. Why? Inhalation brings that vital oxygen into the body and exhalation removes toxins, such as carbon dioxide from the body, so post-exercise I sit in the sauna or steam room and focus on my breath, regulating my breathing and helping my body to relax. So whether you do yoga, tai chi, chi kung or any other meditative practice, you'll notice that the breath forms not only part of the movement exercise, but is also an integral part of the warm-up and cool down routine.

 

Hydration: I drink as much water as possible, making sure to carry a bottle of water with me whereever I go. Water is extremely important in post-exercise recovery because the toxins created through exercise are sent to your liver to be eliminated from the body. If you're not properly hydrated those toxins will have a harder time being removed from your system. This can lead to muscle soreness and post-exercise fatigue. Coconut water and watermelon are also good hydration sources. Try to avoid sugary drinks, or those high in salt and caffeine.

 

Food as fuel: We all know that protein builds muscle, but did you know that during exercise muscle is actually torn apart and is knitted back together during rest. It is therefore essential that your post-exercise food consumption consists of a large amount of protein if you want to build muscle. Since our ancestors probably used nuts and seeds as their principle source of protein then it's probably not a bad idea to consume some, unless you have an allergy, within 30 minutes of your workout to get the maximum benefit. It's also essential to alkalise your system, and a simple way to do that is to eat green vegetables, or have a green smoothie or juice. Alkalising foods reduce acid build up in the the system and lower lactic acid results in less muscle soreness. I tend to use apple cider vinegar occasionally also and another recent article has recommended watermelon as a recovery aid. It's cheaper than cherry active type products. Check out The Food Coach website for interesting tips on healthy food options.

 

Work on Mobility and Flexibility: If you're not including a flexibility routine in or during exercise, then it is advisable to include some mobility exercises in your post-exercise recovery plan. Why? To maintain range of motion at the joints – if your muscles tighten, your range of motion is impacted negatively. Yoga is great for this. Since I teach lots of yoga classes every week, it's pretty rare that I get any type of muscle soreness as I'm very diligent about my own personal practice.

 

Barefoot Walking and Natural Movement Therapy: I've been wearing barefoot shoes for about five months now and I find that they're like a personal massage for my feet. I'll write some more on my barefoot odyssey in future articles, but for now I'd like to mention that I think they help in keeping me in alignment and as a result I have reduced strain on muscles that used to bother me post-exercise, such as, hamstrings after running etc. Part of my recovery is simply walking the dog – in my barefoot shoes of course, and it's this natural movement that also helps to keep my muscle soreness to a minimum – maintaining range of motion at the hips, shoulders, ankles and knees.

 

Foam-Rolling: Just like each of the elements of the this recovery programme I'll probably dedicate an article to each of them individually in the the future. Suffice to say at this point that the High Performance Training class that I teach twice a week has an element of foam rolling. I tend to spend 5-10 minutes encouraging the guys to do full-body rolling and the feedback has been extremely positive. It's like a personal massage. It improves circulation, reduces muscle soreness and keeps the muscles loose. It's also great for rehabilitation. Keep an eye on this website for more on foam rolling in future issues.

 

Sleep: One of the most overlooked parts of a recovery plan is sleep. Six to eight hours of undisturbed sleep allows the body to repair itself fully, allowing muscle fibres to replenish. That means leaving sufficient time between your evening workout and the time you go to bed so that your heart rate can come back to a resting heart rate.

 

I hope you've found this article educational. I'll be posting weekly updates, so stay tuned.

 

Dave

 

Get A Grip Adventures - Your source for the Mind, Body, Spirit connection.

 

This article is an opinion piece and is not meant as specific advice. Please consult with your physician or physio before modifying your exercise plan. For more about Get A Grip Adventures, please visit our website on www.gaga.ie.