One of the biggest questions I get asked is "What can I do to recover faster?" The recreational gym users and beginning athletes will just take a day off when they feel they need the rest. More elite athletes will push through ignoring the body's cry for some type of recovery. Both are incorrect and there are specific things that can be done to help the body recover from an intense workout.
Unfortunately, many people skip the recovery process and wind up injuring themselves spending weeks in physical therapy where a simple recovery day activity could have saved them time and money (those co-pays add up!). Working a recovery day/routine into your workout will not only help you feel better, it will also make your workouts and performance better.
One of those things that can be done for recovery is foam rolling. There are numerous benefits of foam rolling. Foam rolling will help flush some of the garbage that has built up in the muscles from working out. It helps to increase blood flow and circulation and will help remove any build up that has occurred in the muscles.
If trigger points or muscle imbalances have started to form it will help diminish those as well which can help with injury prevention in the long run. Foam rolling is like giving yourself a massage. It helps elongate muscles that will have inherently shortened during the activity. It will allow for the muscle to restore the proper length and be able to function properly.
When you are rolling for recovery it should be longer than the five minutes that you roll after you get done running. Foam rolling for recovery means targeting the whole body as opposed to just specific muscle groups. It means that you spend time on areas that are sore, trying to gently massage and roll them out. Make sure you focus on the upper section of your body as well as the lower section of your body in order to gain maximum results.
Following up the foam roller with a massage ball is also useful. In the video below, a massage ball is used but you can also use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball depending on how sore the area is. You should use these different balls on specific sore spots that are found when rolling. These are designed to be a little more intense in order to get the deeper knots found in the muscles out.
Another thing that people always think seems obvious but never really grasp the concept on is fluids. And no—not any high tech, expensive fluid—just water. Chiquita has made a ton of money selling bananas because everyone who gets a cramp tells me they are low in potassium so they eat a banana, when most likely they are cramping due to dehydration. Most people have no concept of how much water they drink in a day and actually drink much less than is needed.
It is important on recovery days, but also every other day, to make sure you are paying close attention to how much water you drink. You should fill a 32-oz. water bottle and keep it with you all day. This bottle should also be refilled a minimum of one time. Drinking water also helps to flush the system and clean out unwanted acids that may be causing soreness and pain.
Recovery is something that needs to be in everyone's workout plan, from the recreational gym user to the elite athlete. Finding a recovery program that works for you is essential to your success.