Exercise stresses the body, and causes trauma, break down, and inflammation in the soft tissues of your musculoskeletal system. You may recognize this as stiffness and/or soreness. There are a few activities you can do following exercise is a cool down that will help boost your rebuilding and recovery.
- Foam roll or massage: Use a foam roller, lax ball, medicine ball, or even your hand to roll and massage the muscles slowly. This Stimulates blood flow to the muscle and helps get rid of the debris of broken down muscles. It is an effective way to reduce soreness and perceived fatigue.
- Stretch: Current evidence does not support stretching as an effective warm up/ injury prevention technique prior to a workout. However, after a workout stretching will help your body cool down, relax tense muscles, and increase your flexibility. Even 4 minutes of stretching post workout can show a benefit.
- Apply Cold: We know that icing a sprained ankle helps reduces its inflammation, right? Well icing or cooling your muscles will help reduce the inflammation in them as well. Inflammation contributes to pain and stiffness post workout but has zero benefit to your fitness. Taking a cold shower is not the most pleasant thing to do, but it is a great recovery practice if you don’t like being sore.
- Supplement with Protein: Protein will help you get the most out of your workouts. Protein supplies your body with the nutrients it needs to start synthesizing new proteins in the muscle. Timing of protein is not as important as making sure you are getting enough. 20-30 grams post workout will do the trick. Lean meats work best, but protein powders are convenient and work well too.
Other than these activities, rest in general will help you recover. Depending on your goals being inactive can actually have a benefit. Resting a muscle for 48 hours between workouts will allow that muscle enough time to rebuild and come back strong for the next workout. Getting a good night’s sleep is highly recommended for optimal recovery.