Last month I addressed the restorative measures of ice, massage, and rest to aid recovery. These methods are designed to not only increase workout performance and reduce injury, but help you feel better when you’re not training. Other useful methods include stretching, diet, supplementation, stimulants, and contrast methods.

Stretching after your workout or on non-workout days may relieve muscle soreness and get you ready for your next workout session faster. If you workout you are going to get sore. The soreness is caused from high volume, frequent workouts, or you may get sore because of a weak body part. Whatever the reason, if you get rid of the soreness sooner, you will actually have more time to recover. With more time to recover your workout performance should improve.

Another useful method to get a body part to recover faster is through feeder workouts. It’s similar to stretching in that you are trying to get a large supply of blood to that area. Very light weight should be used. Start with 30% of your max or less. All you do is some resistance exercises to “feed” blood into the muscle and rid yourself of any lactic acid, which is causing the muscle soreness. This method works great for weak body parts.

What you eat can play a huge role in recovery. The two most important meals are what you eat first thing in the morning and what you consume post workout. Typically a lean protein and a starchy or fibrous carbohydrate are best. By combining a protein with a carbohydrate you are typically eating from 3 of the 4 food groups, stabilizing your blood sugar, and giving your self the proper calories and nutrients to have good workout and feel better throughout the day.

People ask all the time about what supplements to take. There is a few that aid performance and help recovery, but remember food comes first. All the pills, bars, and shakes won’t matter if you’re skipping breakfast and your post workout meal. Your post workout meal should come within 1 hour of workout cessation.

Caffeine and alcohol are factors that can affect recovery. Think of each as a drug, then see how they best fit into your training program. This opens your eyes up to the fact that alcohol inhibits your system, while caffeine stimulates it. Over two alcoholic drinks consecutively puts you in a higher risk for alcoholism. Caffeine can enhance performance, but it can be overdone if your consumption is too frequent. It is interesting to note that being dehydrated can reduce performance output by as much as 2%. That may not sound like much to you but it could be the difference in a competitive placing.

This is a great precursor to the topic of performance enhancers. Drugs do play a role in people’s training. Legal and illegal substances can aid recovery. I mentioned some above. Whatever your position is on questionable substances remember, whatever you are taking, over the counter, prescribed, illegal without a prescription, it should all be used to help you get the most out of your training. Use these products wisely. Know the ingredients in them and how your body will react to them. In doing so you will probably minimize any short term and prevent any long term side effects.

A last method of recovery is with the use of water. It wouldn’t be recommended for anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease. And as always, consult with your physician before using any of the recommended techniques. The method is called the contrast method with the use of medium to cold water and hot steam. Start with 2 minutes in shower then alternate to 2 minutes in a steam room. You only need to do this 2 times. It is a very invigorating method when not overdone. If you overdo it you will feel depleted, not refreshed. The contrast method is best used 4 hours after your workout. You want your system brought back to normal after exertion. Heart rate, body temperature, and general mood should be relaxed to gain the optimal benefits of this method.

Recovery methods are as important as your training methods and should be thought out with similar preparation as your training is planned. Without sufficient rest and recovery no one will be his or her best. A wise man once told me that there is always going to be someone bigger, stronger, and probably meaner than you. What you can hope is that you are better on that given day. Use the above mentioned and you will be. Remember that failure to plan is planning to fail.

About the author

Steve Nagle has been a professional in the fitness community since 1991. During that time, Steve has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of individuals from various backgrounds and numerous settings. Steve’s self motivation plays a vital role in the success of many of his clients. Steve is still an athlete himself. Formerly a bodybuilder, Steve switched to powerlifting because of the desire to experiment with training techniques to help his clients. The switch to powerlifting came naturally and the information gained has helped his clients. His competitive best includes a 505 squat, 425 bench press, and a 545 deadlift.

Steve is also involved in the long distance hiking community. His total backpacking miles, U. S. and abroad total 2,000. This mileage was mostly completed between 1994 and 2000. In 2002, Steve led 14 group hikes in various wilderness areas in Kentucky and is doing the same in 2003.

Steve is a full time fitness professional, keeping in contact with individuals and information to help others stay on top. Steve is not done yet, he knows the best is yet to come and there is still much more to learn.