What does the word recovery mean to you? To most it just means sleeping or resting. Which is fine and probably the easiest way to recover from your workouts, but what if there were other things you could be doing to aid performance and promote a faster recovery. Well there is it’s called active recovery.
Many like to tag some stretching or flexibility exercises before or after their workout. Another way to approach it, is as a completely different session entirely. Do it for 10-15 minutes at home in the evening in front of the tv etc. Stretches should be held for 30-60 seconds. The benefits of stretching should not be overlooked and include increased flexibility, increased joint range of motion, increased blood flow to the muscles bringing nourishment and flushing waste products and it helps beat stress by relaxing tight muscles.
This technique is similar to getting a sports massage, but only at a fraction of the price. You simply roll various muscles over a tool (foam roller, lacrosse ball etc.) breathe deep and relax. It works by relieving trigger points due to the principle of autogenic inhibition. It can also encourage fresh blood to the area, which will bring nutrients for a faster recovery. To see a result from this technique spend at least 2 minutes per muscle, and longer if its a particular hot spot for you.
By contrasting between cold and warm water you take advantage of vasodilatation (from warm water) and vasoconstriction (from cold water). Breaking this down a step further, the warm water causes lymph vessels to relax. The cold water causes lymph vessels to contract. This constant stimulation will help flush out any post-exercise waste products. A 2007 study published in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport showed contrast water immersion to be a valid method of accelerating plasma lactate decrease during recovery from anaerobic exercise in both males and females.
Epsom Salt Baths
Contradictory to the previous bathing technique, this is by far the most enjoyable active recovery method. Next time you have a hot bath drop in 200-400 grams of Epsom salts. They are high in magnesium, so it’s a great way to get a boost if you’re deficient. Amongst many other processes, magnesium is necessary for the body to bind serotonin. This is a mood enhancing chemical within the brain creating a relaxed feeling of well-being. Epsom salt baths can also help flush out toxins, easing muscle aches and pains.