7 Tips on How to Recover Properly After a Hard Workout

Ben Emanuel II

If you’ll ask elite athletes, they'll tell you that rest and recovery are just as important as getting the right amount of work done. Unfortunately, many still feel guilty that they have to take the day off from their usual routine.

If you’ll ask elite athletes, they'll tell you that rest and recovery are just as important as getting the right amount of work done. Unfortunately, many still feel guilty that they have to take the day off from their usual routine.

The reason behind taking a break from your workouts and having proper recovery is because you want your muscles to rebuild, repair, and become stronger to be able to tolerate the next workout sessions. Apart from the physiologic effects, proper recovery can also have psychological effects. The lack of rest day can leave you burned out and mentally exhausted.

So what are the best ways to recover after a tough workout? Here are seven recovery tips that you should try.

1. Ice Baths Immediately After a Workout

You see a lot of pro athletes today from different sports getting inside a tub of ice right after a workout. The idea behind an ice bath is that freezing temperature helps the body recovery. According to one study conducted on participants who were made to run. After the activity, they were instructed to dip their legs in freezing water. This resulted in decreased swelling.

However, some question this method of recovery. Some believe that exposing your tired muscles to freezing temperature may reduce swelling and therefore hinder the natural process of muscle repair.

The consensus here by experts is that an ice bath right after a workout can be a good way to reduce swelling and is helpful if you are competing and you need to perform again. However, if your goal is to get your muscles stronger and to rebuild, then this isn't a highly suggested method.

2. Sleep at least 8 hours a day

Sleep plays a major role in every athlete’s performance. Experts believe that REM sleep provides energy to your mind and body. Without the right amount of sleep, the body can’t complete its recovery. The body fails to release hormones helpful to your recovery, not to mention your brain not be able to consolidate memory.

It's a practice among top athletes to complete eight hours of sleep. Serena Williams mentioned that she sleeps early at 7 pm while Lance Armstrong believes that sleeping six to eight hours a night can help improve his concentration, performance, and concentration.

3. Massage

Regular massages can help reduce DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness or the typical feeling that you get after a hard workout. In a study comparing massage, water immersion, and compression garments, massage has been seen as the most effective method in reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue.

Massage helps in releasing tight muscles improving range of motion and also preventing injury because you don’t need to compensate for your movement.

But more than relaxing the body, massages have been discovered to stimulate cells to create more mitochondria that support the healing process.

4. Stretching

Stretching has been a highly suggested method of post-workout recovery for athletes. It is believed that it can help lessen the amount of time needed for the muscle to recovery mainly due to increased blood flow to the muscles. It is believed that stretching can also eliminate lactic acid.

Stretching overworked muscles can also lessen the likelihood of injuries and muscle pain. For instance, runners often experience lower back pain when they failed to stretch properly. By stretching the hamstring and the hips, it usually addresses this problem.

5. Active Recovery

For athletes who need to perform well during the weekend, it is common for them to not take the day off going into the weekend. Instead, they still go to the gym but taper down. Active recovery involves a light workout instead of the usual intense routine. It ensures that the athlete isn't too fatigued on his or her big day. The role of active recovery is to also review movements and make the necessary last-minute adjustments in an athlete's movement.

For a non-athlete, active recovery is a light workout that you can do the day after completing an intense workout. Not only does it help in recovery, but it can also keep you mentally sharp since it can prevent mental fatigue.

6. Eating the Right Food After a Workout

Diet plays an important part in recovery. Apart from supplements such as whey protein and BCAAs, there is no replacement for good food.

Protein-rich meals are common since the athlete needs to provide muscles with the right amount of amino acids to be able to recover and regain depleted energy from the workout.

Next, let’s not forget the fruits that can reduce inflammation and shorten the time needed for your recovery. Berries rich in antioxidants are often used to decrease muscle soreness that resulted from working out.

7. Taking a Day Off

Even elite athletes who train twice or even thrice a day allow themselves to enjoy one day or even two days off. Often, athletes spend their time with family and friends and away from anything related to their workout or sport. Taking a day off can help someone to mentally reset and be ready for the coming week.

A day off can also be viewed as a reward for a busy week. This can also serve as the day to consolidate all the work that you’ve done for the past days. At times, you can also consider this as your cheat day wherein you can eat the usual things that you avoid such as tacos and pizzas.

Final Thoughts

Rest and recovery are just as important as the training itself. The reality is that it is hard to see yourself improve without the right approach in recovery. However, don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you need more rest days than others. The point is to listen to your body to be able to maximize your progress and prevent injuries from happening.