My Top 10 Favorite Ways to Recover After a Workout
Let me guess. On January 1st, your thoughts went something like this:
“It’s January! It’s time to hit the gym! Yoga, spin, HIIT training—I’m going to do all of it. Seven days a week, baby. Hell yea, I got this.”
And now, midway through the month, they look like this:
“OMG, I can’t walk up a flight up of steps.”
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud your effort and resolutions. Really, I do. But when you drastically spike your activity level, as we so often do this time of year, you need to give your body an adjustment period. To help your body adapt, recovery is one of the single most important things you can do—more so than piling on more workouts.
Recovery Work Is One of the Most Important—and Most Commonly Ignored—Aspects of Fitness
When you return to the gym after the new year, you’re bound to get sore. And, let’s face it: That soreness can feel pretty good. It gives us that feeling of, “Hell yea, things are working.”
But soreness can also hinder our workouts and daily lives. A specific type of soreness called delayed muscle soreness (DMS) can leave our legs feeling heavy days following a workout. For example, whenever we do Leg Day in the TL Method, I guarantee the accountability group explodes with comments such as, “OMG I can barely get out of my desk chair!”
To help with soreness, prevent injury, and to get you back in the gym, you have to do your recovery work.
My Favorite Approaches to Recovery Work
Just like there are a million ways to workout, there are endless ways to recovery your body. If one of the below approaches doesn’t feel good to you, know that there are dozens of other options.
Foam Rolling and Lacrosse Balls
Both foam rolling and lacrosse balls allow you to perform a self myofascial release (SMR), which puts pressure on your muscles to break up the tissue. If you’re sore from a leg workout, you can roll your quad on a foam roller (I used this TriggerPoint foam roller), making the muscle super soft. To recover from upper body workouts, I find the sorest point in my shoulder/back, then press against a lacrosse or tennis ball positioned between me and a wall.
Stretching and Mobility Work
While they might sound similar, stretching and mobility work are two different things. Stretching helps improve your flexibility, thereby allowing your muscles to lengthen; while mobility work helps improve your range of motion in the joint.
There are three ways you can stretch to recover your body:
Static stretch: where you hold a position, as with a forward fold
Ballistic stretch: where move in-and-out of a stretch to improve your range of motion
Dynamic stretch: where you combine stretching with movement, usually to warm-up for a workout (watch this video to try dynamic stretching)
Mobility work helps your joints move freely and easily. When you perform mobility work on your recovery days, focus on your major joints: your spine, wrists, ankles, knees, and hips. Click here, here, here, here, and here for follow-along mobility videos for each of those respective joints.
Alright, now for the fun stuff.
Massages are great (obviously). They can get expensive but I absolutely love them. Plus, a massage therapist knows exactly how to target any kinks within your muscles. If you maintain an active lifestyle, I recommend getting a massage once or twice a month.
I see a chiropractor every-other week to align my body. Alignment can help correct imbalances, eliminate headaches and other pain, and decrease stress put on your joints. Chiropractic work and massages compliment one another extremely well, so consider getting a massage one week, and get adjusted the next.
Not many people knew what cupping was until Michael Phelps started rocking purple dots at the Olympics, but it’s actually been used as a recovery technique for thousands of years. Cupping places small cups on different areas of the body to “suck” up the tissue, thereby improving your circulation.
If you are in the Denver area, make sure to check out my friends at Well Set for massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, cupping, physical therapy, and more!
Cryotherapy involves entering a small chamber set to negative 200 degrees fahrenheit. You wear absolutely nothing in the chamber (or just your undies) with your head poking out the top. It’s BEYOND freezing, but only lasts for 2-4 minutes.
Cryotherapy helps control inflammation, manages pain, and is the most speedy method for recovery on this list. If you want a more affordable approach to cryotherapy (or you can’t find a cryotherapy clinic where you live), simply fill your bathtub with ice, and soak in an ice bath for twenty minutes.
Saunas and Hot Tubs
Unlike the below-freezing temperatures associated with cryotherapy and ice baths, the hot temperatures from saunas and hot tubs will actually dilate your muscles. If your gym has a sauna in the locker room, be sure to take full advantage of it. To get the full effect, try to stay in a sauna or hot tub for twenty minutes.
Increase Your Recovery When You Increase Your Activity Level
Recovery work is a vital component of any fitness routine. While muscle soreness might give you a sense of accomplishment, doing the right amount of recovery work is what keeps you in the gym.
There are limitless ways to recover your body. Some methods are completely free (stretching and mobility work) while others feel like a life of luxury (weekly massages). In the TL Method, I intentionally write mobility work into our weekly program, ensuring each member recovers his/her body. If you’re one who needs more guidance on how to recover from a workout, be sure to check it out!
What’s your favorite method of recovery? Tell us in the comments!