Walking into the office today, it was finally light outside! Seeing some sunlight before heading into work was a welcome change. We are finally starting to get longer days which means Spring is right around the corner.
With the nicer weather approaching, I more often see people out and about, getting in their exercise to make up for months of winter hibernation. Whether training for Spring and Summer Sports, or just getting the beach body ready, many people will kick it in to overdrive trying to get in as much training as possible.
With all this movement starting to ramp up, recovery has become an area that I have been interested in and researching more of lately. It is becoming quite a popular topic and conveniently I have been finding more and more social media posts and articles on how important recovery is. Different tools and equipment seem to come out daily, aimed at improving performance and guaranteeing to make you move and feel better.
Since there is so much information out there, I want to briefly go over the important things to know when it comes to recovery and how to maximize your training sessions or sports performance.
First things first: recovery refers to your bodies’ ability to restore physiological and psychological processes, so that you can continue to train for your sport or activity at optimal levels.
It is extremely important to be aware of the above statement. If you are training every day because you feel guilty missing a day or feel like you may be setting yourself back, this may be actually hindering you from reaching your goals. Too much training and not enough recovery can lead to an overtraining effect, which is in turn detrimental to sports performance or body composition, whichever your main goal might be.
Some common signs and symptoms of overtraining are chronic fatigue, changes in appetite, poor sleep patterns, eventual lack of motivation for continued training, or an increase in resting heart rate (if that’s something you keep track of). If you have some of these symptoms, you may want to consider adding recovery days in to your training regimen.
There are several things you can do for recovery days, but before getting to those, it is important to know that without the following two things, you will never recover properly and therefore never optimize the training effect. You must have adequate Sleep and Nutrition. If you are not getting the proper amount of sleep (ideally around 8 hours) or you are not fueling your body properly with the right foods at the right times, then all the training and recovery work in the world will not be as effective. These two things, (along with a smart and effective training program) are essential for reaching your goals.
At IPA Manhattan we work with many clients who struggle with sleep issues and work closely with Dieticians for dietary needs. If you struggle with these areas, get help addressing them. It cannot be emphasized enough how important sleep and nutrition are for your overall health.
Now, if you feel that you have all these things in order, there are other things you can do to boost recovery and maximize your hard work!
Hydrotherapy, such as ice baths or warm water/cold water contrast baths are effective means to improving muscle soreness, improving heart rate and blood lactate levels. If you don’t have access to this, hot packs and cold packs can help. Cryotherapy is also another option. I have seen an increasing number of Cryotherapy businesses opening and are becoming more popular. This is a nice alternative if you can find a place close.
Compression garments are also effective with improving fatigue and muscle soreness. I am particularly fond of NormaTec Compression boots, which I have always felt better with after use. If you don’t have access to this, buying compression garments for days of significant soreness may be beneficial.
Active Recovery is a steady state heart rate increase around 50-60% of your max heart rate. Don’t feel bad if this work out feels too easy. This will help in the long run. This gentle increase in heart rate for 15-30 minutes will help move waste product from tough previous training sessions and help decrease soreness. I recommend biking, jogging, jump rope or corrective exercises at an easy pace to achieve this.
Manual Therapy has been shown to be an effective tool for recovery and improvement of performance for athletes and avid exercisers. At IPA Manhattan, we are all Manual Therapy Specialists utilizing the Functional Manual Therapy Approach. Of course, I am partial toward our approach and think that we can greatly help improve performance and recovery. Our skilled evaluative and treatment approach assesses the whole body and how all systems interact with each other such as muscles, nerve, joints, and organs to help provide optimal results. And yes, as a Manual Therapist, we do use a lot of these tools that are popular on social media. Instrument assisted soft tissue massage, cupping techniques, and taping are all tools used by manual therapists to help accomplish a specific goal (not just 1 specific technique). Manual therapy work and muscle re-education can help provide you the tools to help to get you performing at your best or keep you moving and feeling healthy, so you are ready to go for sport or outdoor activities when the warm weather hits!
So, remember, whether you are training for athletic competition or trying to get in the best shape possible, it’s not just about the workouts. Taking care of the fine details and adding recovery sessions to your training program will help you achieve optimal results.
-Gregory Reardon DPT, CFMT, CSCS