5 Tools to Help You Recover Like a Professional Athlete
By TANNER MARTTY
To get in shape, you need to challenge yourself. But how do you attack Wednesday's training session when you can barely move after Monday's?
The secret is recovery. Part of the reason professional athletes can push their bodies to the limit week in and week out is because teams spare no expense ensuring that their players recuperate fully. They're willing to shell out big bucks on hyperbaric chambers, massage therapists and other advanced-recovery technologies. But you don't have to have Mark Cuban footing the bill to feel like a million bucks. These recovery techniques take advantage of cutting-edge science, without requiring a seven-figure salary and a full training staff.
1. Contrast Showers
A hot shower might feel nice, but a contrast shower -- which involves alternating between hot and cold water -- may be a better way to relieve muscle soreness. The extreme temperature is thought to dilate and constrict your blood vessels, shuttling metabolic waste products away from your muscles and bringing oxygen and nutrients back to them. Here's how to do it: Start with five to 10 minutes of warm water. Then trade off between one minute of cold water followed by one minute of warm water, repeating the cycle three or four times.
2. Protein Shakes
Swigging a whey-protein shake 30 minutes after exercise may help repair damaged muscles and aid recovery. Whey, a protein found in milk, contains the amino acid leucine, which has particularly been shown to jump-start muscle protein synthesis. For better results, blend in a nutrient-dense green-powder supplement or other antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as dark, leafy greens or berries. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, a byproduct of hard training that can damage your cells.
3. Self-Myofascial Release
I'm guessing you don't have a massage therapist at your beck and call. Instead, get in the habit of dedicating at least 10 minutes a day to self-myofascial release (SMR). This process uses a foam roller to work out muscle knots and relieve tension in the fascia (the tissue covering our muscles). While SMR can be done after workouts, it can also get your body prepped beforehand by priming your tissue to be lengthened through mobility work. If you're using a foam roller prior to exercise, spend another 10 minutes doing mobility exercises. This pre-workout routine promotes more efficient movement during exercise and less wear and tear on your joints. Here's one foam roller routine to try.
4. Ice Baths
NBA players like Kobe Bryant regularly suffer through an ice-bath submersion at halftime to keep their legs fresh for the second half. Ice baths have been shown to reduce muscle soreness. It takes a little getting used to, but when you experience how fresh your muscles feel afterward, you'll be hooked. All you need is a tub, a couple of bags of ice and enough courage to soak for five to 10 minutes.
The final piece of the recovery puzzle is sleep. Your body continues to repair itself during sleep, and a lack of sleep could interfere with the protein synthesis that helps your muscles grow. Make an effort to go to bed earlier so you can get the National Sleep Foundation's recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night. For a good night's rest, stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day, avoid bright light before you hit the sheets and give yourself time to wind down.
Readers -- Do you experience soreness after your workouts? How seriously do you take your recovery plan? Have you tried any of these tips? Did you experience good results? Share your comments below and let us know.
Tanner Martty is the head trainer and owner of 34° North in Santa Monica, California, and an Extreme Fitness Trainer. Whether it's lifting heavy things or expanding the ways he can move his own body, movement is his zen moment. He's convinced there's a superhuman in all of us, and he spends most of his time helping people find it. Get to know more from Tanner on Facebook, or Twitter.