Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that this is a hypocritical post. I almost never recover fully, so I frequently pay the price with overuse injuries. This summer, I suffered a torn meniscus, bursitis, pes anserine bursitis, multiple crippling toe blisters and a hip flexor issue. I always feel as though I need to be pushing myself harder on my runs, when I'm lifting weights, when I'm teaching classes and even when I'm demonstrating workouts for clients. Recovery is something that I am really trying to put more effort into, especially as we enter the colder months, so here is a play-by-play of exactly how I intend to do so.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
I like to think that I drink a lot of water, and compared to most people, I probably do... but I also sweat a lot, too. Replacing that sweat takes a lot of water, and I am definitely guilty of swapping my water out for things like Kombucha and hot tea. Replenishing the lost water is a major key in recovery, and it's a pretty easy one to do. If you're getting bored with plain water, try a flavored seltzer like La Croix!
2. Stretch it out.
I used to go to yoga once a week. I loved it and I was starting to notice major improvements in my flexibility, balance and coordination... so naturally, I stopped going. Yoga is a fabulous way to recover both the mind and the body, especially after a tough week of workouts. Not big into the namaste? Pop over to YouTube and find a stretching video.
3. Sleep it off.
I'm sure this comes as no surprise to you, but we need sleep in order to function, and our bodies need sleep in order to repair themselves after exercise. Not getting enough sleep can lead to poor recovery and major injuries. Plus, when we're tired, our bodies crave sugar to try and re-energize, and that's an uphill battle in and of itself. Not getting enough sleep will literally lead to tears, sprains and crappy eating, so the next time Netflix asks you if you want to watch another episode, just say no.
4. Eat right.
I have a terrible habit of rewarding myself with food after a tough workout. After PR-ing on the half marathon this weekend, I literally ate anything and everything I wanted for two full days. Not only did I totally negate all of the hard work I did by scarfing down empty calories, but I didn't give my body anywhere near the kind of nutrition that it needed to repair itself! My workout this morning could have been so much better had I fed my body the right way after the race. Instead, I'm just fighting to feel back to normal after a weekend of bad decisions. And guess what? My muscles are still sore.
5. Ice, ice baby.
It seems like the common misconception is that ice is only for emergency injuries where swelling could lead to major medical issues. However, plenty of professional athletes use ice as a way to recover after a muscle or joint was subject to repetitive motion or overuse. I have found that icing my knees for 8-10 minutes after running or cycling, even when they don't hurt, has made them less susceptible to aches and pains in the following days. If you know you've got a troublesome knee, shoulder, elbow, hip or wrist - ice it after every workout!
6. Listen to your body.
I know how frustrating it can be when you've got a rest day planned for Sunday and your body is screaming for a break on Wednesday, but unfortunately, our bodies don't follow the same 7-day weekly calendar that we do. If you feel like you need recovery, you probably do, so move some things around in your schedule and make the time to rest. And if you're not the sitting still type, try some active recovery like walking, swimming, light cycling or yoga.
As the weather gets colder, we are going to need to listen to our bodies more. Our warm up times will be different, cool downs will be much more necessary and our bodies will be working overtime to fight germs and keep up healthy. In order to successfully prevent overuse injuries, we've got to stay hydrated, eat right, stretch and recover like athletes. I know it's hard to miss a workout, but it's even harder to miss weeks of workouts due to injury.
Work hard, recover hard.