You’ve already done the hard part and pushed through a tough workout. But that was two days ago, and your hamstrings are still screaming when you try to sit down. If you aren’t actively taking steps to recovery and repair properly, it might be time to give yourself a little TLC.
Certified trainer and health coach Katie Austin — yes, daughter of fitness icon Denise Austin — weighs in on her favorite ways to rebound from hard training and be fresh and ready for her next sweat sesh.
In a study published in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, stretching was rated the most effective recovery strategy among athletes. Austin recommends dynamic stretching such as arm and leg swings, cat/cow, and inchworms before your workout to prepare your joints and muscles to work. Afterward, since you’re already warm, she recommends static stretching such as figure-4s, lying twists and quad stretches to help release your muscles and help shuttle metabolic wastes out of your cells.
Complete days of rest are imperative to the recovery process, but so too are active recovery days. By doing simple, low-intensity movements — such as yoga or going for a hike — you’ll improve circulation and help flush metabolic wastes from your cells. Austin hits her yoga mat once a week, releasing tension in her muscles and alleviating soreness from high-intensity interval training workouts and lifting. “It also does wonders for my stress level,” she says.
Contrast Water Therapy
When you’re injured, alternating ice and heat is a standard healing treatment. Similarly, alternating between hot and cold water during your post-workout shower can offer the same relief. “The warm water helps relieve pain, enhance flexibility and increase circulation to muscles and joints, helping flush metabolic wastes and combat inflammation,” Austin says. “Then the cold water constricts your blood vessels, also helping reduce inflammation.” Begin with two minutes of hot water, one minute of normal temperature water, and then 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat four or five times for optimal benefits.
“Sleep is important for boosting your mood and energy,” Austin says. “It’s also when your body produces growth hormone, which is responsible for tissue repair and muscle growth.” According to research published in Popular Science, endurance and professional athletes probably need nine or 10 hours of sleep a night, but if you’re not going to the CrossFit Games this year, you’re probably OK with about eight hours. To get your zzz’s with ease, turn off all screens an hour before bed, cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and create a relaxing nighttime ritual.
Topical Analgesic Ointment
The European Journal of Pain reports that topical Ointment that contains Lidocaine, Camphor, Arnica, Glucosamine, and even Menthol has the therapeutic potential to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation without side effects. “The Pain-Relief Cooling roll-on from ALFLEXIL works wonders,” Austin says. “I simply roll-on the gel right into the sore spots.”
Written by Jill Schildhouse for Oxygen Magazine