5 Tips for Post-Exercise Recovery:
Post-exercise recovery is an important aspect of any sporting activity or exercise regime. Incorporating recovery into your training schedule can help you to prevent injury and any forced time off as a result. Recovery not only assists in reducing injury risk and exercise fatigue, but may also improve performance.
- Fuel your body
Aim to eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 2 hours after exercise to support repair processes. Carbohydrates are required to replenish glycogen, the storage form of glucose, that was used during exercise, while protein is vital for muscle growth and repair processes.
- Stay hydrated
Rehydration is crucial to restore the fluids lost through sweating. The amount of fluid needed depends on the individual, environment and the exercise performed. Body weight measurements, before and after exercise, can be used to determine the amount of fluid lost. As a general guideline, an individual should consumes at least 2 glasses of water after exercise if body mass has stayed the same or, in the case of weight loss, 2 glasses per pound (0,454 kg) of weight lost. Drinking water before, during and after exercise prevents dehydration, which can result in headaches, fatigue and may even decrease performance.
Recovery processes occur within the body when sleeping and without sufficient sleep these process are interrupted. Many people would have experienced the physical and mental consequences of a poor night’s sleep, which may include fatigue, mood changes, irritability and poor focus. Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep will result in optimal performance and reduced risk of injury.
Your body needs rest between training sessions but this does not mean sitting on the couch all day. Choose a light activity to keep you moving without placing too much stress on the body. This light exercise can include going for a walk, slow cycle, yoga or swimming a few laps in the pool.
- Cool down
After an event or training session spend at least 5-10 minutes cooling down by continuing with a low intensity activity (walking/slow cycle) to reduce heart rate and return the body to its resting state. Stretching can then be used to reduce muscles stiffness and enhance flexibility. Focus on muscle groups that were used during exercise and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Be careful not to bounce when stretching! Foam rolling may also be used to reduce muscle soreness that is often experienced after intense exercise and improve range of motion.
5 Tips for Injury Recovery
Injuries can occur at any time during training or competition. Depending on the injury, you may need to complete a rehabilitation program prior to going back to the activity that caused it. The main goals after injury are to reduce pain, rebuild strength and restore range of motion. This will help you to return to your previous level of activity and decrease your chance of getting injured again.
- Initial first aid
If a soft tissue injury has just occurred, look out for signs of inflammation such as redness, swelling, pain, warmth and loss of range of motion. Follow the RICE method to reduce pain and swelling.
R– Rest (Rest the injured area for about 48-72 hours before starting rehabilitation)
I – Ice (Apply an ice pack to the area to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid direct contact with the skin)
C– Compression (Bandage for first 72 hours, providing firm but even pressure)
E– Elevation (Prop your injured area up so that the limb is above the level of the heart)
- Consult a healthcare professional
Whether you have just been injured or have a niggle that just won’t go away, consult a professional. This will give you an idea of how the injury will affect your training and what the treatment plan will be. It is advised to do rehabilitation exercises under professional supervision as doing them incorrectly could cause further injury and increase your recovery time.
- Stick to your treatment plan
Follow your rehabilitation program as best as you can to prevent longer recovery periods. Stopping your program when you first start to feel better will hinder your recovery. If you know that you will struggle to keep up with home treatment programs, ask your rehabilitation specialist to do more one-on-one sessions or ask a friend to keep you accountable.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
Injuries can also have a mental impact so remind yourself that your body is doing the best it can to repair itself. Use your recovery time to focus on other parts of your body that you would have otherwise neglected, which could benefit you when returning to sport or your previous activity.
- Prevention is better than cure
Ensuring that you have full body strength, cardiovascular fitness and good range of motion will reduce the risk of injury and allow you to excel in your sport or fitness journey. Injuries can also be avoided through proper exercise progression (no more than 10% increases each week), technique correction and addressing muscle imbalances.