Take a clue from Max, Quest’s Chief Attention Hound, here! What’s the number one most crucial thing you can do to help recover after a long or hard workout?
SLEEP! We took a nap after our long run today and later he was ready to go again and full of energy! We should learn from Max!
No, you’re not being lazy when you sleep. You are actually accelerating your training! Workouts break down your body. Sleep is when your muscles and connective tissues repair themselves, especially in the deep phase of sleep.
So the true gains for getting stronger don’t happen in the gym or during the swim, bike or run! You get stronger during your recovery!
If recovery is a pyramid, sleep is the base of it and should be the biggest activity you do for recovery.
The next most important recovery tool is nutrition and hydration! Refueling with healthy foods and replacing the water lost to sweat is super important to proper recovery to be ready for your next workout. Your muscles need that energy replaced and all of your body needs water for optimum function!
After that comes stress management, body work (massage, yoga, stretching) and low-intensity exercise (an easy version of whatever your training is – walk instead of run, an easy spin at low resistance on the bike, etc.). These are important things you can do to decrease fatigue and muscle soreness, but they should not trump sleep, nutrition and hydration!
Lastly, use recovery “tools” – compression socks or boots, cryotherapy, foam rollers, roller sticks/balls for deep tissue work, Theraguns, buffers, and all the other cool “toys” out there that are touted as the latest and greatest thing for recovery. Don’t get me wrong…they’re not all hype. They just shouldn’t be your primary recovery method.
Let me know if you have any questions on recovery and training. I love discussing this stuff!