Recovery is a very hot topic among athletes right now, because proper recovery can support gains in performance; basically, the recovery process helps maximize the hard work you’re putting into each sweat session. Sounds great, right? I certainly want to be reaping all of the benefits from my time spent sweating it out running, biking and strength training. The biggest question for me as an “everyday athlete” was, “what does proper recovery actually look like for me?”
I took to EDGE Athlete Lounge here in Chicago, which has a simple mission: “To make stronger athletes.” They do that by not only training athletes but by paying more attention to the specific recovery process after each sweat session. When I stopped by EDGE, I caught up with owner and coach, Robyn LaLonde to understand a few simple takeaways that I can start implementing into my training and fitness routine right away.
What I learned first and foremost: if you’re exercising or participating in a “weight bearing activity,” you’re putting stress on your body so you need to help it recover (I’m looking at all of you participating in group spin classes, HIIT sessions or running on Lake Shore Trail).
Based on the discussion with Robyn, I compiled my favorite tips – recovery tools and techniques that are very simple, quick, and easy to start incorporating into your workout routine now:
Increase Blood Flow
When we exercise, our legs do a lot of the heavy lifting which in turn builds-up “toxins” aka lactic acid, post-workout. In order to eliminate the lactic acid (which is the culprit of muscle soreness), we need to increase blood flow through the legs and feet as it helps remove the built-up waste from the body. At EDGE they have compression boots for post-workout, but if you don’t have access to those, sit with your legs up the wall immediately following your workout, or wear compression socks to help increase blood flow through your legs.
Release Muscle Soreness
Break down muscle tissue to prevent tight, sore muscles by using a foam roller. Slowly roll back-and-forth over larger muscle groups to iron out knots or kinks from exercising.
Robyn stated that recovery ends 24 hours after exercise. In that window of time, we need to help our body by consuming the right foods to build up our muscles and replace energy. Immediately following a workout, consume protein to build lean muscle broken down during exercise. Long term over the course of the day; consume healthy, natural foods that provide nutrients and energy to the body and are easy to digest.
This is where the real recovery process happens. As athletes, we must be getting the proper amount of sleep (it’s recommended you get seven to eight hours a night) to allow our body time to fully recover and feel refreshed the next day. If you’re skimping on sleep, you’re probably not giving your best effort in your workouts which in turn will hinder your results as well.
Same day recovery is important and takes less time to reap the benefits from recovery techniques. Sit with your feet up the wall following a workout for 15 minutes or do it before bed for 30 – 45 minutes (the longer you wait after exercise, the longer you should perform the recovery technique). As far as how many times a week, if it were up to Robyn, athletes would be recovering after every workout. For starters, however, target your toughest sessions each week and aim to recover after.
Coach Robyn said it best: “your fitness is only actualized through recovery.” Skimping on recovery is cutting yourself short of all the hard work you put in during the actual workout. The purpose of working out is to see improvements in speed and strength so help your body do just that by supporting its recovery process.