You’ve just finished a tough, long workout. Now what? It’s time for recovery. We hear a lot about recovery, but what exactly is recovery and why do we need to recover?
In my view, recovery takes on three distinct types, each with their own issues and methods for recovery: post-workout recovery, post-training block recovery, and post-season recovery.
In this post I’ll discuss post-workout recovery. Future posts will discuss the other recovery types.
Post-Workout Recovery is the process of bringing your body back to homeostasis, or a stable state, from the highly elevated state it was in during the workout. The recovery process lowers blood pressure, lowers heart rate, cools the body temperature, promotes blood circulation from the muscles back to the core, removes waste products from the muscles and delivers nutrients to the muscles, lowers the level of stress hormones, elevates the level of growth hormones, and calms the mind.
A post-workout recovery that accomplishes everything listed above looks like this:
- 10-15 minutes cool down consisting of easy walking/cycling in your Warm up/Recovery HR zone.
- Drink some water. This restores hydration levels, restores blood plasma levels, and promotes removal of waste products from the muscles and delivery of nutrients back to the muscles.
- Within 30 minutes of finishing the cool down have a liquid meal (smoothie) with a 4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio. Your body is primed for restoring glycogen to your muscles during this 30’ window. Don’t miss the window. Aim for 0.5g/lb of body weight of carbs and 0.13g/lb of body weight of protein. For a 150 lb athlete this is 75g carbs/20g protein which yields ~380 calories. See below for Coach Tommy’s smoothie recipe.
- While drinking your smoothie, do some light stretching, foam rolling, yoga, etc., to promote blood flow to and from the muscles. While doing this also clear your mind, review your workout in your mind. What goals did you accomplish? What went right? What could be improved?
- Now it’s time for cryo-therapy. I have a love/hate relationship with the ice bath. There is substantial research supporting ice baths as promoting blood flow and clearing waste products from the muscles. Even better is a contrast bath – five minutes in the ice bath followed by five minutes in a hot shower. Repeat two or three times. Here’s a tip: sit in the empty tub, start the cold water then once the water is over you legs then dump in the ice. This lessens the shock.
- After the contrast bath, put on some compression garments. The medical field has been using compression stockings for decades. There is credible research to support the use of compression. Compression promotes blood flow back to the core and reduces intra-muscular fluid accumulation (swelling).
- Your body releases stress hormones during physiological and psychological stress. Part of recovery is to reduce the stress hormones through relaxation techniques and sport psychology. In order for muscles to grow and repair they must have growth hormones. Growth hormones are released during sleep. Now is the time to take a nap. Yeah!
- After your nap and within two hours of finishing the workout, eat a full healthy meal.
That’s it. That’s a post workout recovery. You may be thinking that is a lot of time added onto a workout. Yes, but it’s just as important as the workout, so plan it as part of your day.
Here’s why. I’ll answer my other question from above: Why do we need to recover? It’s simple. You become more physically fit during rest and recovery. The act of working out doesn’t make you more physically fit. In fact, you are probably losing fitness during a workout due to the stress you’re putting on your body. During rest and recovery your body repairs itself and builds itself back stronger than before the workout. Your body overcompensates for the stress placed on it.
Practice good recovery to become the best athlete you can be. If you don’t take some recovery time, you body will take it for you in the form of illness and/or injury. Then you’ll be forced to recover.
Next time I’ll write about post-training block recovery.
Coach Tommy’s Smoothie Recipe
1 cup of orange juice (fresh is best)
1 Tbs honey (or molasses; more micro nutrients, but has a strong taste)
1 cup berries (your choice, fresh or frozen)
1 scoop whey protein isolate (or yogurt)
Dump in a blender and blend until smooth
360 calories; 75g carbs; 18g protein