Recovery

I consider physical recovery as a sub-component to fitness, but it is so important that I want to write about it separately. Physical recovery is the rest and recovery of the body after exercise. The purpose of recovery is to refresh the body back to full health so you can play at peak performance for continuous days in a row. It is also meant to prevent injuries and preserve your body so you can have a longer athletic career.

Many athletes only focus on recovery and rehab after injuring themselves. However, after any intense exercise, whether it is strength training, conditioning, or playing a sport, your body will be stressed in ways that are not considered injuries. For example, after a basketball game, you muscles, tendons, and ligaments may be tight and sore. Soreness and tightness, since they are not thought of as an injury, are often ignored by young athletes. They do no physical recovery so after many days of training in a row, their soreness and tightness adds up and gets worse. This not only harms performance, since your muscles won't be at 100% strength, but this can also lead to injuries. After years (or even months) of neglecting recovery, serious injuries such as tendinitis can occur and can ultimately shorten an athlete's career.

As you can see, daily recovery is so important because it helps maintain peak performance, prevents injuries, and lengthens careers. Now that you know the importance of physical recovery, you need to know how to recovery. Here is a list of the different kinds of recovery methods athletes can do.

  • Stretching: Stretching is perhaps the most well known form of recovery. It helps loosen muscles and keeps you flexible.
  • Icing: Icing is another well known form of recovery. It helps reduce the inflammation of sore muscles.
  • Massage: Massages are great for reducing soreness. "Rolling" with special equipment such as foam rollers is also under the category of massage.
  • Heat: Whether it is from icy-hot cream, a hot tub, or a heated pad, applying heat helps complement icing to make your muscles feel better.
  • Nutrition: proper hydration and nutrition rich in protein and added calories helps repair muscles. (I will write about nutrition in more detail next week).
  • Rest: Simply taking a day off from intense exercise and resting indoors helps the body recover. However, maintaining good blood flow by taking walks and doing light exercises helps recovery more than just laying on the couch all day.
  • Sleep: Sleep is perhaps the most important form of recovery. The body goes into recovery mode when sleeping. Elite athletes should get 8-10 hours of sleep every night.
  • Mental rest: It is harder for the body to recovery when the stressed-caused hormone called cortisol is at high levels. Staying relaxed and happy throughout your rest days helps your muscles recover quicker.
Another thing to remember is that without resting your muscles after weight lifting, your muscles don't grow and strengthen as efficiently. It is during resting, not lifting, when muscles are actually repairing themselves and growing stronger.

There are other forms of recovery but they either require expensive equipment (hyperbaric chamber) or they can be illegal in certain sports (blood doping), therefore I will not talk about them.

If you are a serious athlete, daily physical recovery is a must. You don't need to do every form of recovery everyday, but there are some baseline things that you need to do everyday. You need to eat and sleep well practically every night. You need to take a complete rest day every 7-10 days. And between stretching, icing, massaging, or heating, you need to do at least two of these things for a combined 30-60 minutes every night. This may not sound fun, but if you are serious about performance and long term health, you need to do it. Recovery becomes more crucial as you age and your body's ability to recover naturally decreases. Young athlete can get away with neglecting recovery, but eventually it catches up to them. You might as well learn good habits early and start focusing on recovery at a young age. Lebron James considers physical recovery as an investment. It is greatly paying off considering how well he is playing at age 33 and how durable he has been for his entire career!

Side note: like fitness training, physical recovery is a science and it is best to seek help from experts. This blog post is just about the basics of recovery.


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