April 01, 2021
Recovery is my least favorite aspect about exercising. After finishing a long workout, I'm sweaty, I'm tired and I'm almost always starving. The last thing I want to do is stretch and foam roll, but I know my body will thank me later.
Recovery is the most important part of an exercise program and probably the most commonly forgotten. Proper recovery allows your body time and effort to heal before the next workout, decreases the likelihood of injury and improves future performance.
Anyone who has had a tough workout knows the immense soreness that will likely follow; I'm talking about that feeling of walking down a flight of stairs the day after performing heavy squats. While committing to a regular recovery process won't eliminate soreness altogether, it will definitely aid in a quicker recovery and is critical for injury prevention.
Foam rolling is a great way to start the recovery process post workout. While it might be a bit painful depending on how sore and tight some muscles already are, this is a simple way to relieve tension in your muscles.
Foam rolling has similar effects to getting a massage, but it's a lot more budget friendly and time efficient. The main soreness that you feel after a workout comes from your muscles and fascia becoming tight and knotted. By foam rolling, you are massaging out those muscles until the knot is released.
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes; if you are new to foam rolling, I'd recommend buying a softer version to start, as you might want to ease into the "oh-so-good" painful massage. I personally love the harder, trigger point foam rollers because they dig deeper into your muscles.
Foam rolling can be done before and after a workout, but for recovery purposes always try to get in 5-10 minutes of foam post workout. Foam rolling is simple and very difficult to do wrong. The main areas to focus on are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, IT band, hip flexors, upper back and latissimus dorsi. If another muscle is calling your name, roll it out and see how it feels. As I said, this is very difficult to do wrong, so try it out and see what works best for you!
Food is another critical component to your recovery. We've all heard that chocolate milk is a great post workout snack as it is high in protein and carbohydrates. But why does that matter? Protein is essential in rebuilding and repairing muscles and it helps build new muscle tissue. After a long and strenuous workout, your muscles are exhausted and need help to recover, so cue the protein!
Protein bars and shakes are helpful because they are high in protein and easily accessible but unfortunately they are usually packed with extra calories and processed ingredients we don't need. Stick to whole foods that are high in protein and have less ingredients. A few favorites of mine are greek yogurt, turkey or chicken, nut butters and eggs. Try to eat your protein intake within 30 minutes of your workout for maximum benefits.
Carbohydrates after a workout are also essential because they will help replenish your glycogen stores, which are used as fuel during your workout. Resistance training uses less glycogen stores than endurance training, so if you are an endurance athlete, definitely up your carbohydrate intake. I tend to stick to a handful of nuts, a cup of quinoa or brown rice. A personal favorite is nut butter or avocado on whole wheat bread.
Hydration and sleep are both key to proper recovery and overall health. Make sure to hydrate prior to your workout, during the workout and even after your workout. Most people don't consume nearly enough water throughout the day, so when you add in a workout it is safe to say you are probably dehydrated. I carry a reusable water bottle around with me at all times to ensure I am constantly hydrating. This is a great way to make sure you are drinking enough water while also being eco-friendly.
Sleep is so important to make a full recovery and yet most people don't get nearly enough hours. That late-night email might seem important in the moment, but you'll be way more alert and focused the next day if you focus on getting a full eight hours of sleep. Your body and muscles will thank you for it!
Most of us sit all day. Meeting after meeting, staring at your computer screen, sitting in the same chair, and yet we wonder why our bodies feel so tight and out of whack. It is so important to stand up and move around during the day to loosen up your joints and stretch out your muscles. Especially after a workout, your body needs movement and stretching; the worst thing you can do for your body is sit for eight hours. Rest days are okay as long as you still make sure to move daily, go for a walk, do some yoga, or even rep out some light bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges to loosen up your body.
Exercise is amazing medicine for your body but if you don’t take care of yourself outside of the gym, all of your hard work will result in pain, tightness and risk of injury! Grab a foam roller (you can order any kind from Amazon) and follow along with me as I take you through my Drucker Fitness foam roller recovery session.