A productive and vigorous workout session is the dream. The story doesn't end there, however. Your muscles deserve some love, after all. While pushing your body to become stronger is the goal of any fitness regimen, you need to rest, too. In recent years, muscle recovery has become a crucial component of one’s wellness journey.
Exercise of any kind will put some stress on the body, so it’s up to you to take a breather and give it the rest it needs. Don’t know where or how to start? Worry not, as we’ll outline what the term recovery entails and share some useful tips and tricks on how to maximize it.
What Is Muscle Recovery?
You’ve finally found a routine in your fitness regime and train consistently to achieve a certain goal — but how do you know when to slow down? Is it when your muscles start to ache? Or when you can’t do any more reps? Is overtraining really a thing?
Let’s commence with clarifying a few notions. The first term you need to understand is homeostasis, which is a self-regulating process your organism uses to maintain stability by adjusting and adapting to outside conditions. Our bodies strive to maintain that balanced condition at all times. Meanwhile, stress acts as an external stimulus that jeopardizes homeostasis.
Now, the term stress refers to any kind of stimulus, including physiological, psychological, environmental, chemical, emotional, and more. Here, we’ll solely focus on the type caused by exercise. When our bodies face stress, they try to adapt to it.
Therefore, as we experience physiological stress during exercise, our bodies need muscle recovery to regain homeostasis. If we skip this integral step, over time, we might compromise our immune system and increase the risk of getting training-related injuries. The process of muscle soreness recovery entails strengthening the muscle tissue, thus achieving your goal.
Types of Recovery
You’ve probably read up on numerous types of fitness routines and diets, but recovery, especially in the context of a workout, is a concept that continues to elude us. That said, one thing is known: muscle ache recovery isn’t just about you lying around all day long on your couch. There’s a variety of recovery processes, and we’ll outline the most prominent ones:
- Passive recovery: This method is just what it sounds like. You’ll cease doing exercises altogether and swap them for complete rest. So okay, muscle recovery may entail some couch time, but that’s not all there is to it. The amount you’ll spend without physical activity depends on your workout intensity and fitness level.
- Active recovery: Here, you’ll be putting your muscles to some good use. Namely, active recovery implies doing low-intensity and low-impact exercises. These workouts won’t put your body through any additional stress, and they’ll contribute to muscle regeneration. Yoga, cycling, and walking are all great techniques to speed up the removal of lactic acid and stimulate blood flow.
- Soft tissue therapy: Perhaps better known as myofascial release, it involves the usage of foam rollers and an array of massage techniques. If done before and after a workout, it will alleviate any sensation of muscle soreness. Massages are also reported to improve circulation and lymphatic flow.
- Cross training: Our final recovery method is all about mixing and changing up your workout activities, thus targeting different muscles every time. This way, you’ll allow one group of muscles to recover while the other does all the hard work.
Tips and Tricks for Optimizing Muscle Recovery
We’ve recounted different workout muscle recovery methods, but just like with any exercise, this can be a rollercoaster ride. For this reason, we’ve assembled a few tips and tricks that’ll help you make the most of your recovery journey:
- Nutrition: An adequate diet is the cornerstone of a sound workout plan. However, that doesn’t imply only consuming fat-free food. The food you intake will supply your body with the nutrients it needs to recover quickly. Experts recommend eating protein-rich food prior to and following your workout.
- Hydration: You’ve probably heard somewhere that 2l is the recommended daily water intake. But why do we need so much water? Well, the answer is simple. Our bodies rely on water to build the proteins that make up the muscle tissue. So, make sure to fill up your water bottle next time you hit the gym. It is also a good idea to incorporate electrolytes since we lose them during exercise.
- Sleep: The importance of sleep is well-recognized by many experts. It contributes to the normal functioning of our bodies and mental and physical health. Now, when it comes to muscle recovery, we need to take into account basal sleep and sleep debt. The former refers to the amount of sleep we require every night, while the latter is the consequence of not getting enough basal sleep. If sleep debt accumulates, it can compromise our recovery. Therefore, it’s important to get your eight hours in every night for the most optimal results.
- Intuition: Listening to your own boy is crucial because it will surely indicate you need a break in one way or another. If you’re aching, just stop exercising — it’s as simple as that. If you are unsure of your state or progress, you could always invest in a quality body fat scale like Eros. This way, you’ll get to keep track of up to 13 body metrics and adjust your plan accordingly.
Muscle recovery is fundamental to one’s fitness journey despite the lack of research on the subject. The truth is — our body is sacred, and we should cherish it. Aside from an adequate diet and a workout program, it needs time to rest and recover. Whether you employ passive recovery or a combination of massage and low-impact exercises, the choice is yours. Listen to the clues your body is leaving you, and you’ll be in tip-top shape in no time.