Here is a summary of effective ways to recover from hard workouts. Please feel free to comment, ask any questions or request me to expand on any of these topics!
Also, as a background, recovery is not the same as adaptation. Recovery is when you feel better so that you are able to perform well at your next workout or hard ride/race. Adaptation is when the body adapts to the training you have been doing so that your performance improves (you go harder, faster, longer than before). In gaming-speak, adaptation is the same as “level-up”.
Best recovery strategies
- Sleep. Getting enough and quality sleep is arguably the most effective recovery method. Schedule your sleep diligently, as you would any other important commitment, and follow through. In close second is…
- Good nutrition. Focus on foods with high nutritional value. Not only before/after the workouts, but at all times. “One-ingredient” foods are the best
- Pre and post-workout nutrition: high intensity workouts require glycogen (carbs). Make sure to consume 40-60g of carbs with some protein 1-2 hours before a hard workout. Do not workout fasted. Consume ~20g of protein and ~30g of carbs after a hard workout. The post-workout food can be your next meal of the day if you are close enough to it. Real food. No need to spend a fortune on supplements or special recovery powders. The 30-minute window post-workout is a myth, unless you need to workout again on the same day a few hours later.
- Learn about yourself, your body, and ignore what everyone else is doing. Focus on YOU. Your body knows best and it will talk to you if you listen to it. How often/hard are you used to working out? How long does it usually take you to recover? How stressed out are you, and how much sleep did you get in the last 2 days? A coach and training plan can guide you, but ultimately only you know yourself. Take days off as needed. Respect recovery days.
- Compression boots are the only recovery equipment scientifically proven to aid in recovery (and adaptation!!). Normatec boots cost a small fortune. Go for AirRelax instead if you are interested. I use mine daily.
- A light walk is likely better than sitting all day with your legs up. It gets fresh blood flowing into your muscles. The boots will do this for you as well.
What not to do
- Do not take anti-inflamatory drugs (Advil, Ibuprofen, etc.) They negatively interfere with recovery and adaptation.
- No ice baths
- Stretching - it does not help with recovery. If your muscles are very sore, don’t stretch them as stretching and can further tear muscles. Leave the muscles alone and stretch when you are no longer sore. Careful with foam rolling, as that can also further damage the muscles that are trying to repair and get stronger.
Bottom line: your body knows what to do! Give it rest and good nutrition, then stay out of the way and let it do its job!!!