Beginner Exerciser Series: Recovery
Jul 4, 2021
This is the last of four in our Beginner Exerciser series. We hope you’ve found these helpful, either for yourself or for a family member or friend. If you were sent these articles by a friend and have never been to Fitness Together, don’t forget to take advantage of our two free session offer: we usually offer one free session to try us out, but tell us you’ve read or watched our Beginner Exerciser series, you’ll get two.
To review, our past three parts of this series have been about Goal Setting (keeping goals SMART), Finding the Right Trainer (credentials, facility, repor, etc), and Starting a Cardiovascular Training program (important for everyone, no matter their level of fitness). If you missed any, you can find them here on the blog and also on our Facebook Page under Events.
Today we’ll talk about another important part of your exercise routine: Recovery. Recovery includes many things and can mean different things to each person, so we’ll be focusing specifically on stretching and foam rolling.
Recovery is important to both prevent and rehabilitate sore muscles. Having strong, limber muscles will help prevent injury during normal exercise, but will also help in acute cases (stepping off a curb quickly, catching a surprise ball, ducking out of the way of something). As the saying goes “One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This means you can either spend a little time each day taking care of your body, or a whole lot of time, effort, and maybe money to fix a problem later.
Recovery is also important when something goes wrong (tendinopathies, stretched or torn muscles, etc). Once you have an issue, it is important to take your recovery even more seriously and if need be, see a physical therapist or other professional. The goal with physical therapy is not to get yourself to where you were before, but to get you even stronger so that this injury doesn’t happen again.
It’s important to take recovery seriously so that you can exercise well for a long time.
There are many types of stretching, some done by yourself at home, some with a partner, and some require a trained professional. We’ll go over a few of the most commonly used ones.
Static stretching has two kinds: passive and active. Passive means you are holding a pose via gravity or by hand. Examples include bending from the waist to touch your toes, a quadriceps stretch where you grab your ankle, or a forearm stretch where you pull your fingers back towards your shoulder. Active means you are using no assistance except for your own muscles (the one working and it’s agonist). An example would be most yoga poses (plank or down dog) where you are holding your body up without support.
Static stretching enhances balance and helps you in reaching the outer limits of your flexibility and range of motion. Most stretches are held for 10-30 seconds or so.
Dynamic stretching relies on momentum and repeated movement. There is a brief hold or none at all, and you are meant to gradually increase your speed and range of motion in these exercises. Examples include torso twists, hip circles, and arm swings.
MFR (Myofascial Release)
MFR is not technically a type of stretching, but it achieves a similar effect in recovery so we’ll count it here. MFR can be done manually (usually during physical therapy or another professional appointment). SMFR (Self MFR) is usually done with a ball, foam roller, or stick device.
MFR relieves muscle tension and tightness by relaxing the fascia, which is a thin elastic coating that covers all your muscles. This coating can become tightened which leads to pain, either in the location of the tightening or in another. By rolling out these areas, the fascia can loosen or become “unstuck,” relieving pain. MFR can also increase range of motion and break down muscle knots.
So what type of stretching should we do? That depends!
Before exercise, it’s best to do dynamic stretching. You want to do exercises that mimic the activity you’ll be doing. For example, for running, you’d want to focus on leg swings, hip rotations, high knees, etc. For swimming, an example would be arm circles. It’s also ok to just do a slower, more relaxed version of what you plan to do (jog, bike or swim slowly, perform an exercise with less weight, etc). You don’t want to do static stretching as a warm up, because it does not warm up the muscle and may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire properly. Think about an elastic band: if you stretch out an elastic band, it will increase in length and become more pliable, but won’t be as useful as an elastic band. It loses it’s stored energy!
After exercise, as a cool down, you want to do static stretching. It helps the body cool down slowly, which helps prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Stretching slowly before sitting down to rest or driving home helps the muscles cool down before getting locked into a seated position. Have you ever done exercise (like a hike maybe?) and then gotten in your car to drive home, only to find you’ve become “stiff” on your 15 minute drive! You should have stretched!
Essentially, you want to make sure to treat your body well. This means exercise, of course, but also your recovery. Stretching, foam rolling, active recovery and rest are crucial parts of your training, no matter your goal. If you feel you have an injury, take it seriously immediately and reach out to a physical therapist or another professional.
If you’re looking up information about recovery, stretching, or rehabilitating certain issues, make sure you’re looking for information in the right places. Make sure the blogs, articles, and podcasts you find are written by personal trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, doctors, coaches, etc. Make sure they are from a verified and educated source. A lot of athletes can share their stories with you and what worked for them along the way, but that doesn’t make them experts.
We haven’t yet planned our new series, so if you have any feedback please let us know via our social media pages! We’d love to hear what you think about our past series and what topics you’d like to know more about.