As an aspiring athlete (I think anyone trying to get in better shape is an aspiring athlete), your need to recover from your workouts and let your body heal. Resting, not relaxation becomes critical. As you sleep your body recovers instead of just recovering from the food that we eat and the quiet times that we are not working out.
For people that live a quiet and mostly sedentary life resting tends to mean sleeping. Hopefully this was just a past life for you but one of the main things that people do in a couch potato lifestyle is just exist, you probably know what I mean, wake up groggy, coffee, maybe food, work, watch TV, eat lots of snacks and then sleep.
As an active, health concious person a lot of this gets turned on its head. We wake up feeling more rested and before or after work we will workout and find different ways to fill our time. I always find though that I am questing for a better way to get the rest that I need.
Why Do We get Muscle Soreness?
I find that my main recovery problems are muscle soreness and muscle weakness after my workouts. There is a major food component in this but I wanted to deal with rest and recovery today only. After any kind of overload to our muscles they are broken down and we lose the glycogen and at the same time the stress on the muscles can cause some pain.
The main problem that you are dealing with when you have muscle soreness is lactic acid buildup in your muscles and the microtrauma to your muscle fibers. Everyone that has worked out has felt this and although it can be painful, you will recover in a few days after resting correctly.
Rest and Recovery after Exercise
There are a few ways to recover after a good workout of any kind, we it a cardio or a muscle workout.
1. Stretching – Stretching should not be done before working out as it can cause you to pull cold muscles. What I find works best is to warmup the muscles and do my workout and then after every workout I stretch all of my muscles for 5 to 10 minutes. This really is the minimum as it helps build flexibility and you are in much better shape when you are flexible.
2. Sleep – as we know sleep is really really important. I know that I need 8 hours of sleep a night and the more you workout the deeper your sleep will be. There are a few things that we can do to get better sleep. I find that having quiet time for the hour before I go to sleep helps, studies actually show that if you have no TV, computer, or iPhone then you will fall asleep easier and I have to agree even though I will usually listen to a podcast as I am falling asleep. Also the darker your room is the better you will sleep, and keep the temperature down in your room.
3. Baths – Having a warm bath after you have cooled off will work well for your muscles. Baths are very soothing and many people say that having a bath with epson salts will help soothe sore muscles even better.
4. Meditation – I am very bad for neglecting this but there are many great changes in your physiology that happen when you meditate on a regular basis. The act of meditation also puts your mind in a more sleeplike beta level which helps concentration and restfulness as well.
These are a few of the things that you can do to improve recovery after your workouts. Why not add some of your own in the comments below?