10 Ways Professional Athletes Recover After a Hard Workout
You’ve done the hard work. You’ve pushed your body to the limits (& further). You are tired, sore, and you just want to lay on the couch and not move for a good few hours. But, your work isn’t over yet. When you workout, and especially when you work your body HARD, you are literally breaking down your muscles. Your body becomes inflamed and it may even shut down different systems (like the digestive system) because it thinks it’s dying. The reality is, the only way for your endurance to grow is to put your body through massive physical stress.
Becoming fit is not all about putting in painful workouts. The way that you often recover from a workout is often key to help you continue to progress. Successful athletes all have this in common: they recognize that recovery is just as important post-workout as the workout itself. So skip the beer and McDonald’s after the gym and follow our tips below to allow your body to build into something even better than before.
You love them or you hate them, but you can’t deny that they’re good for you. After a hard workout, your body has experienced little tears and rips in your muscles. In order for your muscles to build back up, creating blood flow is very important. While sitting in ice, your blood flow will stop, flush waste product, and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown. When you get out of the ice bath, your blood flow will increase and jump start your circulation to help the healing process begin.
How to: fill your bathtub up with cold water, pour a few buckets of ice in. The water temperature should not below 52 degrees and not be over 65 degrees. Stay in for 8-12 minutes.
Contrast baths are ½ ice bath, ½ hot bath. The idea of a contrast bath is similar to an ice bath: in ice, your body will constrict blood vessels, flush waste, and reduce swelling. In heat, your body will increase blood flow. It’s important to note that contrast baths do not work for everyone. Heating your body after a hard workout carries the risk of promoting inflammation and swelling. Try it once and see how it makes you feel.
How to: you will need two bathtubs for this or one bathtub + one hot tub. Fill up one bathtub ice bath style and the other one with hot water. Set your timer for 3 minutes in ice, 3 minutes in hot water. You will need to do this 2-3 times.
If you’ve never heard or seen it before, the title is linked. The Normatec has arm, hip, and leg compartments that you slip on and zip up. The Normatec will isolate one body part, squeeze multiple times, and release. The squeeze & release will move up your arms, hips, or legs to isolate each area. The squeeze & release will flush your muscles and increase blood flow.
How to: zip up the Normatec around your legs, hips, or arms. If you’ve never used it before, start with a lower level. Sit in this for 15-30 minutes.
These should be done directly following your workout. Active drills are a way for your body to cool down post-workout. Sitting, relaxing, or laying immediately after can tighten your muscles and create more soreness. Active drills reduce inflammation and give your joints time to begin the healing process.
How to: there are tons of active drills that you can do, so check out a list here. Surprisingly, you’ve probably done them before. Think: butt kicks, high knees, A-skip, glute bridges, fire hydrants, and any light exercise.
If you’ve never heard of a voodoo band, the band is linked in the title. A voodoo band is a simple rubber band that can be used to squeeze or constrict an area of soreness. The band will constrict blood vessels and increase blood flow in the circulatory system.
How to: wrap the band around the area of tightness or soreness. Leave the band on for 2-3 minutes and tighten and release the muscle that you’re targeting.
Foam rollers are great pieces of equipment that can take a tight muscle or knot and release tension. Essentially, foam rollers can give you an affordable deep tissue massage. They release tight muscles and increase blood flow. Use these directly following a hard workout.
How to: pinpoint the area(s) of your body that are sore or tight. Put the muscle that is sore on the roller and slowly allow as much body weight as you can handle on the roller. Hold for 20 seconds before you roll the muscle back and forth.
Dig out your lacrosse balls from high school, because these can be used for muscle recovery as well. The firmness of the ball and the small surface area can help you pinpoint smaller target areas of soreness that a foam roller can’t get to. A lacrosse ball can operate like a deep tissue massage, releasing knots & tense muscles, as well as increasing blood flow.
How to: the way you use these are highly dependent on the area of soreness. Usually, after you target an area or knot, you want to slowly put your entire body weight onto the lacrosse ball. Make sure you are not tensing up. Hold for 2 minutes. This free book can help you with specific muscle areas.
Epsom salt can help relieve tension and soothe muscle soreness. These are best when you have a lagging injury. After the bath stretch, roll out, or massage the area that has been tense.
How to: usually it’s best to do an epsom salt bath a day or so after your workout. Pour in 1-2 cups of epsom salt and fill your bath with warm water. Stay in for at least 15 minutes.
Protein Rich Meal/Snack
Since working out causes rips & tears in your muscles, the best way to build them back up is by eating a lot of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissue, and is a building block for bones, muscles, skin, cartilage, and blood.
How to: take a high protein snack to eat 15-30 minutes after your workout. You can eat a protein bar, almonds, beef jerky, whey shake, greek yogurt, or tuna. For dinner, eat something high in protein as well. Red meat, eggs, spinach, and beans are all good options.
Sleep is the best and easiest recovery tool you can utilize. During sleep, your body will produce growth hormones that will help with blood flow. This is the key time when your body will begin to repair the tears and rips in your muscles.
How to: go to bed early after a hard workout. Shoot for 9-10 hours of sleep! Your best hours of sleep are between 10pm-2am, so try not to go to bed later than 10.
Some of these techniques will do wonders for you, while others leave you feeling flat on your next workout. Try a variety out and test what works best and when. Your recovery keys are getting enough sleep & protein, cooling down your muscles, and increasing your blood flow. How do you recover from a hard workout? What things on this list are you going to try next?