The key methods for recovery include: sleep, active recovery, stretching, hydrotherapy, massage, nutrition and compression garments, all of which will be explained in more detail below.
Short answer: the best recovery method is the one you can be consistent with and find the most beneficial. Adequate rest and recovery is key to health and wellness. Recovery methods are utilised by top athletes looking to gain an edge on the competition and improve performance but if you are in pain you may be under recovering (click here for a better understanding of recovery) so why not use them too?
So, what are some recovery methods?
Sleep! (for me it is the easiest!).
At the time of writing this blog sleep is not fully understood. We know it helps regulate energy levels and it has an impact on wake time function. In recent studies restricting sleep has impaired mood, cognitive function (your ability to think), immune function (fighting off germs), glucose metabolism and appetite regulation (food cravings!). This is what lead to the recommendation of 8 hours a night. But don’t just take my word for it LeBron James guest stared a podcast with Tim Ferris in which he shared that he sleeps 8-9 hours a night sometimes 10. Lebron also stated that after the podcast he was going to go and nap at home ‘I just think that’s just the best way to recover’. LeBron James is a phenomenal athlete and from this podcast he has tried lots of recovery methods. If you want to listen to the podcast click here.
Would we all be in less pain if we got more sleep?
Active recovery (my favourite).
Active recovery is where you perform gentle aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming and cycling. The idea is that active recovery is better than passive because you get more blood to your muscles (remember your blood carries all the necessary things you need to recover). It also helps clear your body of lactate and other metabolic waste by delivering oxygen to the area. If you have sore muscles from work or the gym, a gentle walk, cycle, jog, or swim might just be what you need to ‘loosen up’.
At the time of writing this blog, most research is pointing to stretching doing little for performance and health but helping reduce muscle soreness. There are a few clinicians who are even against stretching different areas such as the low back as promoting more movement may reduce the strength of the area. Reducing soreness which anecdotally (which means it works for certain individuals) can be helpful and so far, there is no evidence of detrimental effects post exercise.
Immersing yourself in water has many effects on the body, it changes blood flow, blood pressure and changes your temperature too! This may all influence inflammation, muscle soreness, immune function and more but so far (like many recovery methods) the evidence is anecdotal. The most benefit for performance has been shown with cold water immersion (which is why many athletes use ice baths) however many of you reading this blog just want to feel a little more comfortable and relaxed – so how about a hot bath with you favourite bath bomb?
Just like active recovery massage works by improving blood flow to different areas of the body (notice how your skin goes pink/red when being massaged). Also like stretching there is little evidence that it has an actual effect on recovery and that the benefit is the psychological aspect (reduced pain and confidence in moving). I personally think that movement is the best way but if massage is the crutch that enables you to do it that’s amazing! (I am not just picking on massage here I think most passive therapies work this way).
Eating right is a must! But what is eating right?
I think Dan John summed this topic up perfectly when he said, “eat like an adult”, do adults eat luminous sugary food? No, they eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, quality sources of protein, fats, and carbs, oh and drink lots of water. This is all the body needs to repair itself and stay healthy. If you are like me and like ‘no nonsense’ advise, check out Dan John’s website here.
If you do not eat healthy and nutrient-rich food, you are hindering your body’s ability to adapt and recover by not providing it with the correct materials.
Although mainly used for lymphatic and circulatory conditions (medical use) many athletes uses compression garments to improve venous return (blood flow back to the heart) and to limit swelling. Some theories include promoting the proper alignment of muscles fibres. So far (common theme alert) there is not much positive data, but they do not seem to harm the recovery process. For the average person this might be too expensive, and you might be better suited going for a stroll and a nice bath.
I hope this gives you some ideas on recovery methods. I will be delving further into these topics in future blogs so stay tuned. I also hope you enjoyed the blog and if you have any questions please ask it will be my pleasure to help you.
Thanks for reading!