I’ll start off by putting it simply—you must train hard and recover hard! I work with a variety of athletes at Synergy Athletics. Keep in mind—these are mostly high school and college age athletes who are often at the mercy of their school schedules. Here are some healthy ways to recover your body and restore your muscles!

·        Food: It’s simple. When you’re done working out, you have to eat a protein source to build muscles. Muscles are made of proteins, and without consuming any protein quickly (in the first 45 minutes after a workout—the earlier the better), muscles won’t grow. It’s like trying to build a log cabin without wood. It just doesn’t make any sense.

On top of that, eating quality meals with a protein source, carbohydrate, and additional vegetable will help your body feel better after training. Ever eat fast food after a hard lifting session? Your muscles will be feeling it the next day. I’ve done it with pizza. Not pleasant. You’ve already done the hard work in the gym, so don’t sabotage yourself in the kitchen!

Healthy meals go a long way toward recovery.

·        Self-myofascial release and active release techniques (ART): This includes foam rolling, which I have posted about extensively, using a lax ball, Theracane, the Stick, or any other massage tool. When a muscle stretches near the point of injury, the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) tells the muscle spindles to relax. Foam rolling stimulates the muscle and works the GTO so the athlete can work in a more complete range of motion without the muscles shutting down. Also, ART techniques are helpful in fixing soft tissue adhesion and dissipating scar tissue build up. Foam rollers cost around $10–20, and a lax ball is around $1.

Lacrosse ball, glute ART

·        Contrast showers and baths: For the first few times that you use contrast showers, it may be uncomfortable but still invigorating! I recall when John Frieser, a new trainer here at Synergy Athletics, was getting ready for the NFL combines. He had his full day scheduled including his time in the shower! There are different time sequences used, but I prefer one minute as cold as I can stand followed by two minutes as warm as possible. Also, you can isolate the contrasting to a body part such as the hands by using two buckets—one with hot water and one with icy cold water. Perform contrasting and you will feel great! Contrasting relaxes and excites the muscles, moves blood through, and shortens the restoration time.

Contrasting cuts recovery time

·        Warm up, stretch, and relax: Stretching has been a hot topic in the training world lately. Stretching post-workout and on rest days will help recovery. First, during a workout, muscles contract and shorten. Stretching them after the workout insures the muscles range of motion and length. Pre-workout you should be using (with a couple exceptions) a dynamic stretching routine. For recovery, I recommend increasing the body’s core temperature with some light exercises such as jogging or jumping jacks and then perform a static stretching routine.

·        Hydrate: Drinking water is crucial, but I don’t use strict guidelines such as “drink 8 oz every 13 1/6 minutes.” I just tell the athletes to drink. They bring water with them when they train, and they keep a bottle of water with them during the day. There are many recovery drinks out there, but to keep my demographic in mind, water is the most practical. Drinking on your rest days will help push toxins out and keep the muscles loose.

Always stay hydrated!

·        Relax (sleep): It’s not rocket science here! Recovery requires relaxing. I have some clients that want to stay up on their video games or Facebooking until 1:00 am, wake up at 6:30 am to go to school, and then come workout. That’s not how it works! You must relax and get your sleep. At their age, they should be getting around eight hours of sleep a night. More rest may be required after a strenuous competition or training. Nowadays, you can’t pay me to stay up after 11:00 pm. I wish I loved sleeping when I was younger as much as I do now!

This model of health and fitness knows the importance of sleep. Shouldn’t you?!

I apologize for the above picture, but because I had to look at it, I figure everyone should! Now to summarize, if you implement these recovery and restoration methods, you will feel better and more importantly you can train harder. Isn’t that the point? At Synergy Athletics, we like to “train hard and recover hard.” All of these methods take a little effort and a small portion of time. Athletes that don’t recover are cheating themselves in the gym!