I recently co-presented to a group of cyclists at the Rydeshack on the importance of recovery. Dr. Stephen Legate, a Sports Chiropractor, suggested that athletes should spend 1 hour of recovery efforts to every 5 hours of training. Recovery efforts include foam rolling, stretching, yoga, epsom salt soaks, hot tubs. That doesn't sound to difficult spending 1 hour doing yoga or soaking in a tub.
Athletes should spend 1 hour of recovery efforts to every 5 hours of training
That said, what can you start doing immediately to make sure you're getting the most out of your time in active recovery? Here are my recommendations:
1) Find the relevant muscle bundle
What I've learned is the most effective strategy for getting your body restored is identifying which muscles are most relevant to your joint or muscle tightness. A general rule of thumb is the harder and more dense the tissue, the more need of blood supply and stimulus is needed. But be careful!! These tight, bundled muscle fibers can be pulling so strongly on your tendons that the inflammation and tenderness passes well beyond the musculotendinous junction. In other words, do not go directly to the point you experience the pain. Rather, go to where the muscle fibers are able to handle the demand of pressure and stimulus without causing you any pain.
2) Be gentle
Once you've found a muscle that is contributing to your pain, apply a slow, steady, pressure. Keep the intensity within your pain tolerance and allow your body to absorb and adapt to it. Try not to be too forceful or direct with the application. Just because a little pain is good, does not mean more pain is better. Less is often times more when it comes to muscle stimulation and the bodies ability to adapt. So move slowly, and breathe deeply.
I often tell my clients to use their breath to focus on bringing oxygen to wherever we are working or you are receiving stimulus. The blood carries oxygen and as you inhale, visualize this blood moving towards the muscles, and as blood flows into the tissue, it becomes softer and more hydrated with fluid. I will tell my clients how the mind can actually control your body, and you can harness the power of the mind to command your muscles to relax.
4) Make it a ritual
The paradigm shift that needs to happen is to turn this experience into a enjoyable one. Rather than seeing this as work, and painful work at that. Look at the recovery process as an opportunity to restore your body to how it felt when you felt really good in your body. This may be difficult to remember, but I can say from my experience over the past 18 years working with clients in pain that the body can adapt and transform and become pain free again.
I would also add Arnica Montana 200 CK, which is homeopathic medicine that helps with muscle soreness, bruising, and swelling. This is plant medicine that has no side effects and is something I refer most every client to using.
Tart cherry cider concentrate:
Another great recovery support is tart cherry cider concentrate. This is not the cherry juice, its' a concentrate that you take 2 tablespoons with water after exercise. I heard about this from a Tri-athlete friend and I've been getting great feedback from clients on its benefits for reducing muscle soreness and helping flush toxins from the muscles.