Cooling down from a workout session is as important to any training program as the workout itself. Muscles, joints, and tendons get stressed from continuous exercise, and if the body doesn’t have a chance to recuperate, there’s a higher chance of injury or fatigue.
“Recovery helps bring the body back to a resting state,” says Tristan Rice, a performance specialist at EXOS.
The most effective way to heal after a workout or a couple of intense training days is through active recovery — applying techniques that reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and soothe the muscles that were worked during training.
Active recovery can be applied to any fitness level and in any setting — and the more consistently it’s done, the better prepared your body will be for future training sessions.
Use these tips to get the most of your active recovery session.
On non-training days, keep your heart rate moderately elevated, somewhere between a casual walk and a typical workout outside or do low-impact cardio inside the gym. This creates a more balanced weekly exercise routine, moving away from the disparity of training-day highs and off-day lows, explains Tiffany Grimm, a solutions manager at EXOS.
“It keeps your body in a rhythm and your heart rate at a healthy active pace,” Grimm says.
The same method applies to a single workout. Practicing a less-intense version of your cardio workout routine can help muscles ease into a resting mode, instead of crashing after the work is done.
Incorporate recovery tools.
Simple recovery tools, such as tennis balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers, can be used to penetrate muscle tissue and target specific parts of the body that were trained or stressed in the workout session.
“When you reduce these physical markers of stress, you’ll feel less sore and will perform at a higher level within the next 24 to 48 hours,” says Rice.
More tech-savvy products, such as Hyperice vibrating equipment, creates a local vibration that increases circulation and blood flow, which helps relieve muscle stiffness and soreness. It can also prime the body for a tough workout by activating specific areas, explains Grimm.
Apply a fair workout-to-recovery ratio.
The length and intensity of your workout will determine the length of your recovery. If the recovery is too long, it can counteract some of the benefits from the training session.
“If you don’t train often enough, then you won’t get stronger or fitter,” says Rice.
A day off from an intense training program might involve 20-30 minutes of non-impact cardio, like using an elliptical or stationary bike or swimming, followed by 20-30 minutes of self-massage and mobility work, such as stretching. Then, end with 10-15 minutes in a cold tub or cold shower, or alternate hot and cold tubs, says Rice.
“You’re still moving, but it’s unweighted and non-impact,” he says.
After a single workout session, adding just 5-10 minutes of stretching, yoga, or self-massage quickens muscle recovery.
While much of active recovery deals with targeting the physical aspects of stress, it’s just as important to manage the psychological ones. Meditation and breathwork help build mental endurance.
“You’re building your resilience…your ability to ward off stress,” says Grimm.
Incorporating the outdoors into your recovery can lift your mood and help you focus on your current surroundings. Rice encourages his clients to go for a bike ride around the neighborhood, take a hike, or play sports with their kids, anything that keeps them moving enough to moderately elevate their heart rate.
Another, more direct, method is finding activities that force your mind back to the present. “When you’re sitting in a cold tub or taking a cold shower, you don’t have any choice but to focus on the current moment,” says Rice.
Focus on sleep and nutrition.
Eating and sleeping are passive activities, meaning they’re naturally done each day. By proactively consuming foods that fuel the body and practicing consistent sleep habits, these activities become a vital part of your active recovery routine.
Make sure to eat a snack with a blend of quality protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of your workout to help rebuild glycogen stores in the muscles, recommends Rice, who suggests yogurt and granola or a protein shake with a banana.
He says, “Nutrition gives you an opportunity to rebuild stronger.”
EXOS believes in using safe, high-quality products. That’s why we recommend Hyperice products. To learn more, visit hyperice.com.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lauren Katims