Each time we exercise, we are putting our bodies under a new load of stress to try to force it to change and adapt (i.e. get stronger, faster or fitter). While the long term results are the strength gains and weight loss that we are chasing, the immediate effects of exercise are often muscle soreness, fatigue, reduced muscle strength and overall reduction in exercise performance in the hours and days following our session. Ensuring we recover from our sessions properly can help accelerate our ability to overcome these effects so that our bodies are less likely to experience an injury, and also gets us back to top exercising condition quicker!
There are a number of different ways we can recover from exercise, and were going to cover a few of these strategies for you now.
*Please note, not all of these strategies may apply to your situation/training level.
Stretching and Foam Rolling
If you are an honest person, you will 100% admit to having skipped your cool down before. I mean, let’s be real, who wants to finish exercising, only to do more exercise… However, cooling down is an important part of your session as it helps your body gradually come back down to its normal resting state. Stretching and foam rolling play a key role in a cool down, as they assist in helping your muscles relax and stretch back to their normal length, ultimately reducing how tight and sore your muscles feel. Stretching and foam rolling are also important to do regularly to help maintain your flexibility and improve how well you can perform your exercises!
When we exercise, we begin to raise our body temperature which causes us to sweat as a way of cooling ourselves down. While sweating itself isn’t a problem, not replenishing the fluids we lose through sweating is. Ensuring that you are not only hydrated before and during exercise, but also after you finish exercising is important in minimising your risk of experiencing dehydration, and improving your bodies ability to restore itself.
Exercising requires energy, and energy comes from the food we eat. Eating a high-carbohydrate and high protein meal within the hour following exercise allows the body to restore the energy that has been used, as well as use the nutrients from the food to help repair the muscle that has been broken down while exercising.
Last but not least: sleep. Possibly the single most loved thing in the world, and a crucial element in assisting with recovery. When we sleep, our body is working hard to release hormones that nourish/repair our bodies, as well as resetting our central nervous system to ensure we are bright, alert and functioning when we wake up. A poor night of sleep can decrease our muscle and cognitive function, making us even more sluggish and fatigued.
Take Home Message
Regardless of whether you're an exercise beginner or a seasoned athlete, recovery is an important part of every exercise routine! Developing good habits when it comes to stretching, eating and sleeping can ensure that you're body is restoring itself in an efficient manner, and get you back to top performance condition in less time!
Carly Rush - Exercise Physiologist