Recover your way to better results
It’s no secret that regular exercise does remarkable things for the body, right? But those things don’t actually happen during exercise. The good stuff happens when you’re away from the gym.
Strictly speaking, exercise is just an impetus to change. Walking for twenty minutes, taking a Zumba class, or lifting weights each signal the body to get more fit, but the improvements and regeneration come during recovery. Clearly, recovery is really important and I think there are three ways to get the most from it: nutrition, rest, and soft tissue work.
Good nutrition is probably the most obvious recovery tool. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, high fiber carbs and healthy fats gives the body essential elements to both fuel your workouts and rebuild afterwards. Immediately post workout (within about an hour) is a great time to replenish. Try to plan one “feeding” after your workouts to take advantage of the post-workout window when your body is super receptive. A good rough ratio of carbs to protein is 2 or 3 to 1. Also, consume enough water to stay hydrated, especially in the hot summer months. For active individuals, a half to one ounce of water per pound of body weight is a good guideline.
Rest and quality sleep are vastly under appreciated. Many changes in muscles and other tissues happen when at rest. Most people need somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but I’d bet few consistently get that much. There are dozens of reasons and excuses for skimping, but adequate sleep will make an enormous difference in fitness and overall health. Basic message – insufficient sleep jeopardizes your progress!
Soft tissue work is also easily overlooked. If muscles are your body’s engine, then soft tissue work is a tune up. Probably the most recognizable version is hands-on massage, but it can also be done with foam rollers or a massage tool. A good massage therapist is probably the best choice, but not always convenient or affordable. Consistent foam rolling is a nice choice for most of us. I use mine almost everyday.
Managing stress is also important to continuous progress. Consistent, elevated stress can wreak havoc on hormones, mood, energy, etc. A little stress is fine; an unmanageable heap of it is not. Exercise itself is a great management tool, but things like deep breathing and meditation can be extremely helpful as well.
Making your recovery a priority will not only enhance the results you see from exercise, but make you feel and function better. Exercise consistently, eat well, get enough sleep and manage your stress and reap the rewards!