Whether you’ve been working out for 5 days or 5 years we all have those days where we dread having to walk down any stairs cause we’re positive our legs will just fall off! Usually it’s after something like Coach thinking it would be a good idea to find a 20 rep max back squat. You were lulled into a false sense of hope cause you felt fine the day after, but it’s the day after the next where it sneaks up on you. Now there are a wide array of things that contribute to us getting sore, and possibly even more for making it go away. Which is why this is going to be part 1 of 2 for the blogs focusing on recovery, so that it doesn’t feel like a book. For this first part I’ve picked out 2 general areas to expand on that can contribute to or help speed up the recovery process: Muscle Manipulation and Sleep/Rest.
I’m using the idea of Muscle Manipulation here as a general term for anything from stretching and massage to acupuncture and cupping. To me a lot of these things are all trying to do 1 of 2 things to help with recovery. That is either giving the recovery process as assist or create a response in the body to get it kick started.
Looking at the examples above I would put cupping and stretching in the assist category because they are both causing more blood than usual to flow through the area. By allowing more blood to get to the area it can more consistently get new blood to the area and repair the torn tissues that are cause soreness. When stretching this is accomplished by simply spreading the muscle out, and cupping using suction to force extra blood into a concentrated area.
Going to massage and acupuncture we’re looking at doing something to cause a response from the body by more or less damaging the area some more. Causing damage to something that already hurts seems counterintuitive, but because the damage is so minuscule it ends up being beneficial! When our bodies have an injury it rushes blood to the area filled with platelets that heal the area. Acupuncture is more or less tiny stabbing so that damage is clear, but if you think a massage doesn’t cause damage then I challenge you to get a deeper massage!
The second area is a bit more brief to go over because when it comes to sleep and rest I have no problem saying that it is the best and most effective way to recover, period. Sleep is the only time in a day that all nonessential processes, like breathing, can totally shut off, and your body can focus on fixing itself. During sleep our brains trigger the body to release growth hormones, and genes that help with protein synthesis are much more active. Since muscles are built and repaired with protein it is very helpful for the processes that produce it to be more active. I understand that getting loads of sleep consistently is something that most people greatly under prioritize, but at the least we can all find time to get a little extra rest in some other form. Whether it’s taking the time to actually sit down while drinking your morning coffee instead of on the go, or the very rare chance to maybe sit in a hot tub for 30min, which would also increase blood flow through heat!
Looking at this overall the best things we can do for our bodies when they feel like they’re gonna fall apart is either keep muscles opened up or just don’t move at all! Obviously that’s being over-simplified, but really if you can’t make time to get proper amounts of sleep for the most effective recovery then simply keeping blood moving through them is the best option. For now I’ll leave it at that, and next week we’ll look at other important aspects of recovering.