Muscle Recovery: Essential to Your Body - p.3
Use sleep and low impact workouts to improve your overall wellbeing
Resting Your Way to Recovery
Rest should be accounted for in any training program.
Sleep: A Necessary Reset
On its face, sleep should be the easiest way to recover. Research has found that lack of sleep can lead to muscle degradation. Still, many of us find it difficult to get the ideal seven-to-nine hours per night. With some of the below information and tips, we hope that you will find your way to a more balanced sleep schedule.
Sleep improves several facets of health that tangentially affect muscle recovery. For example, the central nervous system (CNS), which is responsible for triggering muscle contractions and reaction time, recuperates during sleep, and hormones like cortisol and testosterone, which produce protein synthesis, are also working while we sleep.
To help optimise sleep, it’s important to set a routine.
Research suggest that our screens can negatively impact sleep, so 60 - 90 minutes of screenless time before bed can do wonders. This is because the blue light emitted from our digital devices tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime and we need to be awake, decreasing our natural melatonin.
It’s also important to create an optimal environment for sleep. Things like blackout curtains, a cooler temperature setting in the bedroom, or a quality mattress can all encourage better, more restful sleep.
Rest Days: Muscles Don't Take Breaks, But You Should
On a much smaller scale, what’s happening during sleep is also happening on rest days. Research recommends we purposefully add rest days and distribute rest periods into our training program. This will give the body time to repair tissue that has been broken down.
Depleted muscle energy stores, micro-tears, fluid loss–all the things that happen during a workout need time to recuperate and grow stronger.
Recovery time depends on your specific routine, but as a rule of thumb about half of your workout routine should be at recovery pace, which is a slower and less-strenuous pace that allows the body to recycle lactate as it's produced. By increasing blood flow, recovery pace workouts may actually accelerate the recovery process.
It is also important to try to avoid intense workouts on back-to-back days. Complete rest days vary by person, but a good goal is one or two rest days every week or ten days. For those of us who are injury-prone, it may be wise to increase the number of complete rest days during rehabilitation periods.
Techniques & Exercises for Recovery
Let’s get into the specifics of what you can do to help the body recover faster. By using exercises targeted at certain muscles, not only will those muscles recover faster–they’ll also get stronger in the process.
Active Recovery: Getting Stronger and Building Muscle
This type of recovery focuses on exercise intensity at low-to-moderate levels. Research suggest that active recovery is successful mostly due to its ability to more rapidly remove blood lactate, facilitating blood flow and giving the body the ability to process excess lactate produced during periods of intense exercise.
Cross training is also a great way to engage in active recovery while enhancing aerobic fitness without putting the body through the same stress as your normal workouts. Try:
Cycling and Walking: The motion is similar to running, aerobics or dancing but without the joint impact. Walk or bike at an easy pace in the low-intensity zone (around 120 - 140 heart rate)
Yoga and Pilates: A beginner’s class should do just fine. Practicing basic yoga or pilates through online videos is sufficient, or you can register for a class via the Zhembrovskyy schedule. Using poses such as sun salutation (to boost circulation and release tightness) and warriors one and two (to activate thigh and calf muscles while helping stretch hips) can do wonders.
Plyometrics: Even 15 - 30 minutes of bodyweight exercises can help boost circulation while stretching muscles. Try exercises like planks, calf raises and lunges, or register for our unique ZhemFit class.
Stretching & Foam Rolling: Increase Range of Motion
Stretching is important both before and after a workout because exercise can shorten muscles and result in decreased mobility. Studies show that stretching helps flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to work in their full range of motion.
Post-workout stretches are often forgotten when we are in a rush, but it’s essential to account for these stretches in a training schedule. Generally, it’s best to hold stretches for about 30 seconds and repeat each once or twice. Target these muscles, which usually take a beating from a variety of workouts:
Chest and Anterior Deltoids
Complementary to stretching, foam rollers help sore muscles, and they can be used on almost every muscle in the body.
Our muscles go through a constant state of breakdown, then repair. Fascia, the connective tissue surrounding our muscles, gets thick and short over time because the body is attempting to protect itself from more damage. Sometimes, trigger points form–sore spots, caused by fascia contraction, thereby needing release.
Ultimately, this affects range of movement and causes soreness.
Foam rolling (called myofascial release) can help release those muscular trigger points, and as one study found, can lead to overall improvement in athletic performance. The result is decreased muscle and joint pain, and increased mobility.
Selecting a foam roller depends on your needs; a larger roller can allow you fuller sessions (meaning, if it’s large enough, you can lie on the foam roller and do some great shoulder / upper back workouts). A denser roller will also mean a more intense massage.
Target these often overused areas: glutes, iliotibial band (IT band), lower back, shoulders and sides.
At Zhembrovskyy we offer various Stretching classes, as well as private lessons for those who want more personalised coaching. Via our schedule you can register for your next Stretching class; it will warm up, relax and reinvigorate your body and mind. If you aren’t familiar with our Stretching classes, sign up for a FREE trial today.
Technology: All the Data You Need
While technology and wearables can’t directly help with recovery, they’re able to gather important data that may inform recovery techniques. Being able to track aspects of training, sleep, heart rate and hydration can provide insight into how to best approach your recovery.
Today there are wearables that help monitor hydration (such as Nobo B60 and Hydra Alert), heart rate, sleet and exercise (such as the Garmin Vivofit 3, or the Fitbit Charge 2 which is especially responsive to monitoring sleep, and has been validated through a third-party study).
Understanding our inputs with data provides us with a way to maximise our outputs and reach peak performance–even in recovery.
Recovery is the First Step to Better Training
Recovery takes time and dedication; it often gets overlooked in workout schedules because it isn’t accounted for.
Active recovery, sleep, diet, and supplements like HVMN Ketone can be used to kickstart the recovery process and make training more effective.
The best training starts with mindful recovery to help muscles rebuild for the next training session. This, ultimately, can improve training by putting your body in the best position to perform. The process of muscle breakdown happens during exercise; immediately after, the process of muscle restoration and strengthening begins–you could be compromising gainful training by skipping these all-important techniques to help the body rebuild.
Recovery is a crucial part of a healthy and safe exercise routine. It is our hope that the information in this series of articles will have offered you some additional knowledge or motivation to always making sure you warm up and relax between workouts. If you still feel unsure or want any tips, please feel free to ask your teacher in class for advice.
For the other chapters in this article series please click the links below.
CHAPTER 1: Use stretching to warm up and relax
CHAPTER 2 : Eat and drink your way to a healthy body