What does “muscle recovery” mean? It means that your body can recoup after a race or a training session. After the body recovers, you are once again fit and ready to perform.
How much your body develops and how much your performance improves depends on how well and how quickly you can recover. The faster you recover, the sooner you can begin again with the next training session. A fully recovered body is far more resilient. Plus, you don’t tend to get injured as easily. In fact, it’s during the time after your workout that the body improves its performance.
Training is designed to fatigue your body
The important thing to understand is that you are systematically tiring your body during training. Bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons are being strained and your energy reserves are being depleted. At first, this leads to decreased performance, but then your body starts working to restore your level of performance immediately after your workout. “Given the necessary time, the body will use the recovery phase to raise its capabilities to a new level and build up longer lasting resources. If there is too little time for this process and the body cannot recover completely before the next training session, the body reacts with stagnation or decreased performance,” emphasizes running expert, Sascha Wingenfeld. The rest phase determines whether and how quickly the body can improve its performance. Or whether the sum total of the training sessions is simply too much for it.
Two ways to recover
There are basically two types of recovery: passive and active.
Passive: We rely solely on the body’s own powers of recovery and hope that it can compensate for the training load as well as it can and restore its physical capabilities as quickly as possible.
Active: We can also positively influence the regeneration process. Active support means using a variety of measures to stimulate the body during the rest phase. The effect: Your body requires far less time to recover. “We can get back to training faster or increase the intensity of our workout, which in the end leads to enhanced performance in a shorter period of time,” explains Sascha.
What can you do for a faster recovery?
Sascha has put together a list of the most effective methods for your recovery. Follow them to improve your performance after your workout.
1. Cool-down phase
Always finish your training session with a short “cool-down phase” for a faster recovery. In the last ten minutes, slow your pace down to recovery intensity. By doing this, your body slowly begins to return your metabolism and cardiovascular system back to normal. It also breaks up any accumulations and reduces the hyperacidity of the muscles. The reduced intensity of the last few minutes of training speeds up your body’s transition to the recovery phase. It also prevents your body from trying to remobilize too rapidly.
2. Recover by stretching
After each training session, complete a short and easy stretching program. This helps reduce any immediate tightness after running, so you can recover faster. Your muscles can already begin to get ready to perform again. Stretching also decreases muscle tension directly after your workout, and the muscles remain flexible. Stretching in the cool-down phase has a relaxing effect on your mind and body, which supports and accelerates the recovery process.
3. Cold/warm baths (Kneipp method)
After your workout, you need a shower anyway. Use this to do something good for your muscles. Shower for 30-40 seconds, alternating between ice cold and warm water. Repeat this procedure about 5-8 times. The ice water keeps your muscles from hurting and getting sore. The warm water, in contrast, promotes blood circulation and relaxes your tendons and muscles. “If you have the chance, use a traditional Kneipp facility,” recommends Sascha.
4. Ice bath
In the case of particularly intense runs, the muscles may work so hard that there is actual muscle damage. This is when it’s so important to focus on muscle recovery. “An ice bath after the workout reduces the circulation of blood in the muscles and stops the internal bleeding in these injuries. After the ice bath, the blood circulation of the muscles is strongly stimulated, which also helps remove the waste products of an intense metabolism,” explains the running expert.
How it works:
Fill the bathtub or a plunge pool with 8°C (46.4°F) cold water. Remain in the ice water for about 5 minutes and afterwards let your body warm up again on its own.
5. Active relaxation training
There is a direct connection between the body and the mind. Our thoughts control our bodily reactions. This natural law forms the foundation of all forms of active relaxation. These include autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga and many more. A relaxation program as short as 10 minutes has been shown to reduce tightness and lactate concentration in the muscles. Test out which method helps you recover fastest and which relaxation techniques are most effective for you.
Try to refill your reserves quickly after your workout. Your body needs energy to recover. A good combination of complex carbohydrates, like those in whole-grain products, and protein bolster the recovery process. The combination of macronutrients help you to build muscle and keep your insulin level stable.
Would you like to know more about the three macronutrients? We’ve put together the most important information for you.
Also, make sure to replenish your fluids. Depending on the intensity of your workout, your body requires 500 -700 ml per hour. Thus, it is important to replace these right away. Muscle performance, in particular, largely depends on a steady supply of fluids. But avoid alcohol. Your liver expends a lot of energy when you exercise, and if you drink alcohol, your already stressed liver has to work twice as hard to metabolize the alcohol too. Also, keep in mind that alcohol slows down the recovery process and negates any training effect you may have achieved.
Of course, the easiest and most effective method of helping us recover faster is sleep. All of the training stimuli are processed while our body sleeps. Minor tissue damage is repaired, muscles are developed and our whole body and mind are restored. True to the motto: “… your muscles grow while you sleep.” Depending on the intensity of your workout, you should get between 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Our body’s reaction to lack of sleep includes a reduction in metabolism, a slower recovery, irritability, a weakening of the immune system and uncontrollable hunger attacks.
A visit to the sauna is a tried and true method of relaxing your body after sports. The muscles loosen and their blood flow increases significantly. This helps injuries to heal faster and speeds up overall muscle recovery. In addition, the body experiences a feeling of inner peace and mental relaxation, which helps to reduce muscle tightness and contributes to an intense recovery. Just keep in mind that you need to replenish the fluids you lost in the sauna as soon as you get out. Also, be aware that a visit to the sauna decreases your body and muscle tone to the point that your performance on the next day can be severely diminished. Therefore, avoid a visit to the sauna before intense training days.