A Move to Improve - 9: Recovery
Updated: Jun 25, 2018
With the winter sports season in full swing and the World Cup, Wallabies and State of Origin encouraging the weekend warrior to try harder and for longer, proper recovery is often overlooked.
The main idea to follow is: returning your body systems back to normal. When you have muscle contractions waste products (eg lactic acid) are left behind and their is likely some micro damage to the muscle fibres. These effects are greater with stronger or longer efforts.
Some things you can do to aid your recovery:
1. Replenish fluids:
When you exercise water is used up faster due to increased muscle contractions, sweating and breathing. It is important to replenish what you have lost. As a very rough guide you will need 1L of water per hour of exercise. This is obviously dependent on a number of factors including: outside temperature, humidity, fitness level, pre-activity hydration, type of activity and intensity of activity. It is recommended to be fully hydrated prior to exercise and then maintain good hydration by having small amounts regularly through your session. This will mean recovery is easier, faster and less risk of poor performance through dehydration.
2. Promote good circulation:
To rid the body of metabolic bi-products eg lactic acid there needs to be sufficient circulation. Ways to help your body circulation include: active recovery (walking, light jogs, low gear/low rev spin bikes) to continue using the muscle pump method of venous return; gentle stretching (especially dynamic stretching for general or rollers/balls for specific areas) to relieve increased muscle tone and so resistance to blood flow. Some trainers swear by contrast baths (swapping between hot and iced water a few times) as it is meant to constrict and relax blood vessels - promoting blood flow. There is limited evidence for this so it is usually unnecessary for the weekend match. However, anecdotally it does help those competing in tournaments where there are multiple games on multiple days.
3. Allow your body time to recover:
Once all the metabolic waste products are removed it is time for your body to refuel and repair. The body does an amazing job of fixing its self as long as it is given the correct amount of time. All the micro tears to your muscles that appear with strenuous exercise need time to heal - if they don't then they can become larger tears or you become run down and sick as the body stops fighting off infection in an attempt to fix your ever damaged muscles.
4. Refuel your body:
The Body also needs the right fuel to recover. This comes in 2 forms: Protein to mend damaged muscles; and carbohydrates to replenish energy supplies. Often people trying to lose weight will be on a calorie deficit diet and so the energy they use is more than the energy they consume. This is fine for a short time as fat stores can compensate for a while but when you do intense exercise most days of the week the fat stores can't be converted into carbohydrates fast enough for usable energy. For this reason you need to make sure you consume some carbohydrates post intense exercise and leave at least a day between intense sessions, to allow stores to become replenished. Otherwise, you will find you are fatigued all the time so don't have the motivation to go to the gym and so break your healthy streak.
5. Avoid alcohol
Unfortunately alcohol is a toxin the body cleanse before the waste products of exercise. So, if you have a couple of pints to relax it will take longer for your body to even start preparing itself.
A better recovery regime means less pain - life is too short to worry about pain