Jump-start your recovery time with a few simple tactics.
Whether you're training for a marathon or simply trying to keep up with your regular workouts, recovering from an intense exercise session isn't just about putting your feet up and kicking back on the sofa.
Learn techniques to help your body repair quickly so you can get back into your routine without discomfort or the risk of injury.
Take the time to cool down
Research suggests stretching may not help too much with muscle soreness,1 but taking the time to cool down (lower your heart rate slowly) is essential for recovering quickly and safely.2
Having a snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible after finishing exercise is one of the best ways to improve recovery.3
When finishing a strenuous exercise session, it's important to replace the fluid lost through sweating by drinking plenty of water or a glass of orange juice
- Drinking helps with replacing fluid and some of the salts lost during workout
- Orange juice gives an antioxidant boost, which helps with recovery and immunity 3
Sleep tight, sweet dreams
Sleep is one of the most important factors in recovery
- Your body builds new cells and repairs damaged cells during sleep
- Bad quality of sleep leads to a slow and inefficient muscle recovery
- You will also be more likely to choose unhealthy foods and drinks the next day if you are tired
Your body needs rest to recover well:
- If you've had an intense workout or exercise session, rest the following day or lower the intensity of your training.
- You could also decide to focus on a different area of your fitness.
- If you've had a hard strength-training session, focus on your flexibility the following day by taking a yoga or stretching class.
Bring on the ice
Some studies have shown that taking an ice-cold bath may improve muscle recovery:4
- It’s been suggested that the decrease in blood supply to the muscles caused by the cold, followed by a sudden rush of blood to the muscles when they warm up could increase nutrient flow to the area
Heat treatment immediately after exercise
- Having a hot bath or applying heat directly to muscles, contrary to popular belief, could actually slow down muscle recovery as it may increase inflammation 5
- Applying gentle heat to the muscle could speed up recovery
- Herbert RD, de Noronha M, Kamper SJ. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD004577.
- Fitness training tips. NHS Choices. Visited 3 October 2012 http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/olympics/Pages/Trainingtips.aspx
- Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009;41(3): 709-731
- Bleakley C, McDonough S, Gardner E et al. Cold-water immersion (cryotherapy) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 2.
- Brock Symons T, Clasey JL, Gater DR et al. Effects of deep heat as a preventative mechanism on delayed onset muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2004;18(1):155-61.
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