You’ve been hitting the gym or pounding the running track pretty regularly and getting into the groove of training. So why are you still experiencing those second day muscle aches, pains and stiffness? Instead of dismissing it due to ageing or worn muscle and joints, there’s something you can do about it. Here are a few simple tips to reduce post-workout pain, avoid injury and maximize your training efficacy.
The recovery routine
It’s easy to forget that training actually breaks down your muscles and tissue in order to rebuild them stronger. Your energy stores are drained, your hydration levels drop and fatigue sets in. So, to ensure you’re allowing your body enough time and space to recover, it’s best to plan recovery into your workout schedule.
- Incorporate a “down” week every month or so where you lower the intensity of your regular workout. During that week, do a few laps of the pool, have a dip at the beach, do half the amount of reps at the gym or take a brisk walk instead of your usual run. You’ll feel re-energized and refreshed while still getting in a workout.
- Space your biggest workouts about three days apart. By giving your body a few days to replenish between your most exhausting sessions, you’ll have much more productive workouts as a result.
- Monitor how much fluid you are losing through sweat and thus, how much fluid needs replacing. Rehydration is essential for recovery with the usual rule of thumb being one litre of water required per 1000 calories burned. The minimum amount of fluid intake per day for males is 3.7L/day and 2.7L/day for females.
- Plan your sleep. It might seem like a no brainer that sleep aides recovery, but not all sleep is created equal. Aim for a consistent bedtime that can get you around 8 hours of sleep. And minimize distractions in the bedroom like TV, books, phones and if 8 hours per night isn’t realistic, see if you can squeeze in a power nap in the afternoon of at least 30 minutes.
- Replenish your fuel supply with the right types of and amounts of nutrients. A balanced diet is essential while training to keep the mind and body resourced. Proteins and the right carbs become particularly important. Plan healthy and varied snacks for right after your work out so you don’t just grab the first, conveniently packaged snack that you see in the pantry.
- Recover with remedial massage therapy. It’s no coincidence that every professional sporting organisation has a team of massage therapists constantly working on their athletes. Massage is a great passive method of recovery that gives your muscles and ligaments the blood circulation that they crave, without you having to spend any more energy. Reward yourself with regular therapeutic massages.
- Stretch before a session, stretch after a session and stretch in between sessions. Keeping your muscles loose and limber is a great way to improve flexibility and potentially avoid injury and tightening. If you’re a swimmer, your pre workout stretches should include all the major muscle groups and stretch after your swim as a warm down. Runners should focus on stretching calves, quads and hips, with some arm and shoulder stretches too. Keep in mind, not all stretches are created equal. Specific stretches are much more beneficial for specific activities.
- Still itching to get out there? Active recovery methods like light weights, walking, swimming or yoga could be options for those who are addicted to the burn. Not only will these activities help burn calories, but they are also useful forms of light cardiovascular fitness that increase feelings of wellbeing.
Recover now, while you still have a choice
Overtraining is an easy trap to fall into, often going unrecognised until it’s too late with the negative health implications potentially becoming very serious. Dr. Phil Maffetone, a clinician, coach and researcher has defined overtraining “as a syndrome because it can have various signs and symptoms, depending on the individual. The overtraining syndrome is an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery.
The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances. These, in turn, can cause fatigue, depression, injuries and poor performance to name a few problems.”
“The overtraining syndrome is an imbalance in a simple equation:
Training = Workout + Recovery.”
Prevention is better than a cure
While overtraining is a serious yet underestimated risk, the good news is that it can be easily treated and it’s even easier to avoid. But to avoid it, one must first read the signs. By taking recovery as seriously as you take your workouts, you’re well on your way to a long and healthy relationship with regular exercise.