SEVENTEEN ITEMS MAKE UP A LONG LIST to commit to memory if you wish to hurry along recovery with the advice provided in the slideshow article “17 Proven Ways to Speed Recovery”. It was published by Active.com from Greatist. The piece promises to deliver a significant number of different ways to help your muscles recover from grueling workouts or too many days of workouts without sufficient time off.
Earned Runs suggests the list might be pared down from 17 separate pieces of advice to 5 GENERAL CATEGORIES of remedies, one for each finger of a hand.
1) MOST IMPORTANTLY, BUT NOT FULLY ADVOCATED IN THE ARTICLE: start with a reasonable TRAINING PLAN that REGULARLY SCHEDULES REST or active recovery days after tough training days. It should also include pre-workout dynamic stretch warm-ups and mobility routines, and post-workout passive stretches. Runners older than 40 years of age might benefit from two days of recovery between intense workouts. The article rightly suggests resting more by adding days as needed (#14).
2) ADEQUATE SLEEP is necessary for recovery whether it is entirely obtained in one overnight period (#1) or with added naps during the day (#13). Both are identified in the article. Although 7-8 hours of sleep per day is commonly suggested, athletes with tough daily schedules can add 1-2 more hours and potentially improve performance.
3) OPTIMAL AND TIMELY NUTRIENT INTAKE is required to build and maintain muscle. The article wisely suggests eating protein 4 times during the day: before going to bed (#3), in the morning (#4), and before (#11) and after (#12) workouts. Chocolate milk (#5), with a mix of carbohydrates and protein is offered up as a tasty way to boost protein intake. This beverage does increase caloric intake however, and the referenced article states that plain Greek yogurt plus a banana could provide more protein for the same calories (my personal recipe: 60z Greek yogurt + 1/2 banana + 2-3 prunes provides >2x the protein; kefir is another lower calorie/higher protein drink option).
‘Dosing’ yourself with small amounts of high quality protein throughout the day, especially near the times your muscles are worked and at night before sleep, insures the amino acid components needed to make/re-make muscle fibers are available on demand. Dairy products and powders containing whey are particularly helpful as this type of protein is readily absorbed after ingestion. In doing so you’ll also be providing yourself with small doses of calcium and vitamin D that, along with protein, are important for bone strength.
4) COUNTERACTION OF INFLAMMATION. Harmful oxidants are generated when inflammation is induced by muscle damage from intense exercise. One way to fight it is to ingest anti-oxidants derived from food. DO NOT RELY on ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS. Tart cherry juice makes this list (#6) and some spices (#17). Drinking water (#7) and limiting alcohol intake (#8) can be included in this category.
Did you know that dried plums (prunes) carry one of highest ratings for anti-oxidant activity in a fruit? They rank above blueberries and pomegranates! These ‘snack-ables’ are ‘port-able’ and ‘stow-able’ as they don’t require refrigeration and keep well in the cupboard or a plastic bag in backpack, gym bag, or purse. Five prunes are about 100 calories. Eat 1-2 each time you ingest protein as a source of carbohydrates.
Ice baths (#16) are also recommended for recovery by Greatist. Some who have used this cooling method to slow blood flow to inflamed tissues, thereby decreasing swelling and the movement of inflammatory cells into the area, would recommend trying every other remedy before a full body immersion in icy liquid. I found submerging a knee tough going! Others wear by ice baths.
There is an alternate argument that blocking blood flow impedes performance; opinions can vary on the effectiveness of ice after exercise as opposed to immediately after an acute injury.
5) RELAXATION AIDS combat tissue stiffness and can be mechanical or mental/emotional. The foam roller workout (#9), which is a form of self-massage, makes the list along with traditional massage (#10). Compression garments can be of help (#15). Listening to music (#2) may assist some with relaxation.
It’s helpful to know the 17 “proven” ways to recover on this list. Many will find at least one remedy that makes going through the Active.com Greatist slideshow article entirely worth the effort.
Possibly better, being aware of the categories of methods which facilitate return to a healthy muscle state allows you to change and add new practices over time. The best approach is to avoid overuse with a smart training program AND taking steps to insure post-workout recovery.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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