Easy Practices You Can Start Doing Today
“Your training program is only as effective as your recovery.”
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
Inadequate recovery is often the limiting factor in our progress and holds us back. As we get older, this can have a compounding effect making recovery even more important. A fitness program can help keep us healthy but the most effective fitness program ALSO involves a sufficient amount of proper rest and recovery.
The Importance and Benefits of Recovery
When we train we break down our muscles and cause the accumulation of fatigue. This is actually an integral part of muscle growth as long as you allow your muscles to recover. If allowed time to rest, our muscles will rebuild bigger and stronger. If not, they will remain stagnant as they will never fully recover and grow. Proper recovery can:
Reduce muscle soreness
When we speak of recovery, we also need to identify the mental aspect as it is intimately connected to the physical. This means implementing some form of daily “mental recovery” that specifically addresses our well-being. Having tools to deal with both aspects of recovery is vital to having a truly “complete” fitness program
The Best (and most relaxing!) Types of Recovery
No fancy or expensive equipment needed! This list will go over the most beneficial types of recovery for your every-day fitness enthusiast.
Improving both the quantity AND quality of your sleep is the single most influential factor in both your physical recovery and mental well-being.
Sleep is your body’s literal time to “recharge”. This is a time when many physiological and metabolic processes take place to repair and replenish our bodies. Inadequate amounts of sleep will disrupt these processes and can lead to:
Decline in athletic performance
Sleep trumps everything else on this list. Skimping out on sleep is like ignoring you ran out of gas but continuing to look for reasons why your car won’t run.
Aim for 7-9 hours of QUALITY sleep every night.
Active recovery refers to engaging in a low-intensity activity to aid in recovery. This is the preferred method for many pros and trainers as it’s so efficient. The increased heart rate and blood flow which occurs helps flush out the buildup of toxins and delivers fresh, oxygenated blood full of nutrients to your muscles. Benefits include:
Diminish symptoms of sore muscles after a workout
Speed up recovery
Burn a few extra calories!
Walking, biking, swimming; basically, any mode will work for active recovery. You can even work this into daily routines like walking up to the store instead of driving. Regardless of what you choose, aim for 15-30 minutes post-exercise.
*TIP- Make sure you stay low-intensity! A common problem is trainees will start feeling good and go too hard.*
Exercising outside (emphasis on “outside”!) can have a remarkable effect on our bodies and mental well-being. A major component of this is exposure to vitamin D as it plays a vital role in our mood and well-being. Without adequate sun exposure, it is tough to get vitamin D as we only get minimal amounts through food sources alone.
Engage in light exercise outside to “kill two birds with one stone.” You get active recovery AND soak up your vitamin D as well. Let your mind and body recover at the same time!
Studies have shown that exercise outside can result in:
Decreased heart rate
Decreased cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
Decreased reports of stress
Getting 30 minutes of sun every day is optimal. If that’s not possible, still aim to get at least a few minutes every day.
Meditation, Prayer, And Quiet Time
The benefits of these metaphysical practices have been studied by science and demonstrated to produce measurable positive effects on practitioners. If you are not religious or spiritual, you can still take advantage of this same concept by taking a few moments by yourself to concentrate on yourself or just have some basic quiet time. Here are some basic practices you can do:
Write out your goals for the day or for life.
Have a coffee and read a motivational book every morning.
Focused breathing- Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. This can even be done during your active recovery.
Even treat yourself to a massage (the relaxing kind!)
Start with carving out just 5 minutes of your day and go from there. Giving yourself dedicated “quiet-time” is the best thing you can do for a mental recharge. Bonus points if you do it outside!
This Is All You Need
There are tons of options for recovery; ice baths, foam rollers, sports massage (the painful kind)…but in reality, the majority of people don’t need that. You just need to start implementing these 4 easy practices into your life daily to start feeling fresh and renewed.