We tend to measure our progress in numbers. Reps, sets and pounds (whether in the gym or on the bathroom scale) seem to take over our lives. When we focus solely on numbers, neglecting the recovery process, our energy goes down and the risk of injury goes up.
Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Consider incorporating these five tips into your routine, treating your body and mind to the restoration it deserves.
1. Stretch Out To Some Slow Jams
You’ve done your time. You’re exhausted and ready to go home. The last thing you want to do is spend 10 minutes stretching. But neglecting to stretch puts you at a greater risk for injury. If you can’t walk because your back hurts, not only will that keep you from grocery shopping and doing laundry, but your trips to the gym will be nonexistent. Instead, tune out the demands of the outside world and tune into a soothing playlist. Switch over that Spotify song to something slow, something that will provoke reflection and relaxation. Your muscles are most pliable when they are warm, at the end of a workout. Take advantage of this time to increase your flexibility by holding static stretches for at least 20 to 60 seconds.
2. Go To Sleep
Don’t just go to bed, go to sleep. That means leaving your phone on the nightstand so you’re not up an extra hour, scrolling through social media. A lack of sleep affects several hormones and metabolic processes in the body. These processes help your body overcome all of the tissue damage that takes place in the gym and throughout the day. If you’re getting fewer than 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night, you may also experience increasing cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods such as pizza, pastries and donuts. Consider using an eye mask and ear plugs to reduce light and noise. This can improve the quality of your sleep, allowing bodily systems to repair.
3. Get Salty
While a lack of rest can certainly lead to some salty behavior, this kind of salty is much more appealing. Epsom salts, made primarily of magnesium, can not only reduce muscle soreness, but they can also help flush lactic acid out of the body.
A 10-minute Epsom salt bath allows the magnesium to be absorbed through the skin, regulating muscle and nerve function as well.
4. Protein May Not Be Enough
What? Drinking a protein shake postworkout isn’t enough to ensure proper recovery? While it certainly is recommended to consume 15 grams to 25 grams of quick-digesting protein within 30 minutes of finishing a workout, there are other ways to supplement your diet and aid in recovery. The antioxidant compounds in blueberries may help protect the skeletal muscles from wastes produced during strenuous exercise. Cherry juice is another source of antioxidants that also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Looking to spice up your supper? Consider topping off your meal with turmeric. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that may help fight diabetes and cancer. Turmeric has also been shown to help with arthritis and is one of the key ingredients in NeoCell’s Move Matrix, which is formulated to support joint flexibility and range of motion.
5. Treat Yourself
Stop being so hard on yourself. There’s a time and a place to push harder, do more and max out. However, that’s not every day. Just as you don’t “earn” dinner by exercising, you don’t have to “earn” a day off or “earn” an appointment with the massage therapist. Your body deserves (and needs!) the time off. Don’t let guilt talk you out of some much-needed rest.
Mile after mile, rep after rep, our bodies become worn out and our muscles become fatigued. With proper nutrition and recovery, the body will repair and become stronger—capable of running faster, lifting more weight and doing what you train it to do. Embrace rest. It’s part of the process.