For some fitness enthusiasts, a workout is not complete until they “feel the burn.” This usually means pushing oneself past the point of comfort and into a realm where the “good sort of pain” dominates. Taking this approach to exercise—when done safely, of course—can and will lead to significant benefits, as the body does need to be brought to a certain level to see gains. But after every workout, especially intense ones, it’s also essential to adequately recover so the improvements last and injury is avoided. Our New York City physical therapists know a thing or two about exercise recovery, and would like to teach you how to recoup better so you can train better.
All workouts stress the body to a certain extent, and the harder you work it, the greater the level of stress. The soreness that develops during or immediately after working out is the result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers that is completely normal and actually quite necessary for building muscle and initiating other physical improvements. Your body’s immune system responds to this damage by repairing it, and after repaired, your muscles and other tissues—like bones—become fit than they were originally.
This process of stress and recovery is what eventually leads to improvements in your overall health and fitness, but you need to give your body enough time to complete the necessary steps first. If you overstrain yourself before taking enough time to recoup, it can lead to several potential issues. The most common of these is developing an overuse injury—like runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and tennis elbow—which occur over time from not adequately recovering. Insufficient recovery has also been found to contribute to poor immune function, brain- and hormone-related changes, and depression.
The three keys to proper recovery from our New York City physical therapists
If you’re looking to train more effectively while avoiding any possible pitfalls from overdoing it, you need to focus on your recovery after each workout. There are many important aspects of a proper recovery, but our New York City physical therapist believe that there are three core components that all should focus on:
- 1) Rest: one of the best ways to recover after working out is to simply allow your body to work its magic and heal any damage sustained from exercise; the main ingredient needed for this is time
- How much rest your body requires depends on several factors, including your fitness level, the intensity of the exercise, and how your body responds
- In general, try to give yourself a minimum of 24-48 hours rest before training the same muscle group again, but listen to your body and don’t push through any lingering soreness
- 2) Nutrition: eating right after working out is another fundamental aspect of recovery, as proper nutrition will give your body the building blocks needed to repair muscles and promote recovery
- Try to eat something within 60 minutes of your workout
- Focus on eating primarily whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, as well as whole carbohydrates and lean proteins
- 3) Sleep: the recovery process continues into the nighttime as your body produces growth hormones that are largely responsible for tissue growth and repair; this is why you should never short on sleep after working out
- Always aim to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep on days that you work out
- If you struggle to get enough sleep, going to bed and waking up at the same time is one of the many tips that can improve your sleep schedule
Another tool that can facilitate the recovery process is a device called the NormaTec. These recovery systems all use the same technology and are considered a clinically proven method for increasing circulation, reducing soreness, and maximizing performance. The NormaTec is worn like a sleeve on the body parts that have been pushed the hardest during exercise, and employ three key techniques to speed up recovery:
- Pulsing: the device mimics the muscle pumps in the body by providing dynamic compression—or pulsing—that is constantly moving; this is meant to enhance the movement of fluids out of limbs after workouts
- Gradients: this is another feature that mimics the body, as it prevents fluids in veins and lymphatic vessels from moving in the wrong direction (just as these structures do with one-way valves) in order to promote healing
- Distal release: after pressure is applied to a particular “zone” of the body part, it is released and then applied to the next region to prevent backflow of fluids; this allows each portion of the body part to gain the maximum amount of rest time without too much of a pause between cycles
Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy is proud to announce that we will be adding a NormaTec Pulse Pro 2.0 + Leg Attachment to our clinic in mid-March. We are excited to give our patients access to this incredible device and assist with their recovery so that they can bounce back faster and continue performing at an optimal level. If you’re interested in learning more about how to recover properly or are dealing with any pain that won’t dissipate, our New York City physical therapists are happy to help. Contact us at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on exercise recovery.