Through my years of heavy lifting and playing football, I have learned the importance of proper recovery and what it can do for your body. I have researched different ways to help recovery along and have personally tried about everything you can think of.
The way I look at different tools of recovery is this: if it helps even a little, then it’s helping me get stronger. Below I have listed several things I have tried and found helpful.
1) Sleep – If you’re not sleeping, you’re not growing. Sleep is so important in recovery that it should be your top priority. As you sleep your body is in constant recovery mode, repairing and recuperating your muscles.
You should aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night in order to let this happen. The last week before a meet I aim to get 10+ hours every night even if I don’t feel like I need it.
2) Hydration – Water is vital for your body in so many ways. Water helps by ridding your body of toxins and hydrating your muscle cells. Being properly hydrated also allows your body to better transport and absorb nutrients into your muscles. While I feel sleep is number one, hydration is a close second.
3) Nutrition – A sound nutrition plan is key for recovery. If you’re not providing your body with the proper nutrients to grow, you simply won’t. I can’t be there every minute to tell you how to eat, but I can promise you that providing your body with the right kinds of food will help recovery.
At the bare minimum, this means eating enough protein to build and recover muscle as well as getting enough carbohydrates to help replenish lost glycogen.
I also include supplements in this nutrition category. They aid in making sure your body gets what it needs. You should always begin your day with a solid multi vitamin, preferably in capsule form so it’s easier for the body to digest it.
A solid way to begin recovery immediately after your workout is to mix a rapid assimilating whey protein isolate with a fast absorbing carbohydrate.
This combination works to replenish your glycogen levels and help provide your muscles a quick acting protein giving you a jumpstart on recovery.
4) Foam Rollers – If you follow my fellow 1st Phorm Athlete, Brett Becker, then you know he recently wrote a great blog on foam rollers and how to use them.
I fully agree with him that working your muscles on a foam roller is an important step to recovery as well as injury prevention. You can read Brett’s article by clicking here.
5) Chiropractors and Massage Therapists – I make sure to see my Chiropractor every two weeks. I do this more for prevention, but it also aides in recovery too. By making sure everything is aligned it helps my body recover better.
Along those same lines are massage therapists. I don’t go as often as I should, but getting a deep tissue massage helps blood flow and breaks up scar tissue, which both help in the recovery process.
6) Contrast and Epsom Salt Baths – I remember when I played college football and injured my ankle, the trainer would have me do hot/cold contrast in the whirlpool. I really never thought about it then but now I know it helped with blood flow and circulation, improving recovery time.
I don’t have fancy whirlpools now, but I do have a shower. When I have aches and pains or am feeling sluggish, I do three rounds of hot/cold contrast. You should do 2 minutes with water as hot as you can take, then 1 minute with water as cold as your shower goes. These are not fun but will definitely help in recovery.
Epsom salt baths are also something I have found to help. Filling your bathtub up with water and Epsom salt and sitting in it will lower blood pressure (which runs high in powerlifters), flushes toxins, relieves stress and can help reduce inflammation.
I hope you will find one or two of these recovery tools helpful in your journey. When looking to get bigger or stronger there is a fine line between improving and over training.
If you’re lacking motivation, are in a poor mood or are actually getting weaker then I challenge you to try one (or more) of the above items because you may be well on your way to over training.