This blog is about an approach to fitness that I’ve been using for years now, that has enabled me to stay in the best shape possible while also maintaining a relatively pain-free body. When you’re involved in a significant amount of physical activity, your body is going to feel it. Eventually it gets to the point where some light stretching after your workout doesn’t cut it. You’ll notice that you feel stiffer in each workout. You’ll feel less energetic. You’ll start to dread certain movements. You can work out all you want, but if you aren’t taking the necessary steps to allow your body to rest, you aren’t rebuilding all the muscle fibers that are destroyed from your workouts.
There’s also a lot that you can be doing to help facilitate this recovery process. If it’s a restorative or gentle yoga class, yoga can be considered entirely restorative. Most yoga classes are focused on restorative stretching for the majority of the class, while a small percentage of it is focused on intense postures or climax poses. Even a typical Man Flow Yoga class has a significant amount of time dedicated to warm-up and cool-down stretching.
Let me make it a little more simple. Let’s say you have 1 hour each day to work on your fitness. 7 hours per week. You would be much healthier (and even in better shape) if you were to spend that on 4-5 intense 30-minute workouts, and spend the rest of that time (the remaining 4 hours) on stretching, foam rolling, lacrosse ball, deep tissue massage, or low-intensity cardio like walking.
It’s because this is how you body gets stronger. You don’t gain strength by doing a tough yoga workout or lifting weights. You gain strength because of your body’s response to the muscle fibers being broken down from the workout. Your recovery process is what makes you stronger. So if you’re really serious about your health, you’ll do everything you can to help facilitate the recovery process. Here are a few things to do outside of your workout to facilitate recovery:
1) Deep tissue massage – Get a masseuse, buy a lacrosse ball or a foam roller, and get to deep tissue massaging. This helps release muscles knots and makes your muscle more efficient. It also significantly reduces the risk of injury and increase your range of motion.
2) Take a walk – Go for a 30 minute walk instead of an intense workout sometime. You’ll release tension in your muscles and give your body the break it might need.
3) Take a yin or restorative yoga class – Deep and long stretching is something that all of us need, but something that most of us rarely take the time for. Attending one of these types of yoga classes will focus solely on that stretching that you usually neglect because it’s too boring. Or, just do it yourself and put on some Enya.
4) Don’t do anything. – Sometimes you just need to sit. Or, more accurately, lay down. Sitting is horrible for your spine, but taking a nap on your back is what recovery is all about.
5) Ice bath. – Ice baths reduce inflammation in your body. They are the quickest way to facilitate the healing process. They are also extremely uncomfortable if you aren’t familiar with them. Start with 2 – 5 minutes, and then if you don’t feel like you’re getting frostbitten, up the time to 10 or 15 minutes. Listen to your body. Don’t get hypothermia and blame me.
If you’re a competitive athlete, fitness professional, or are training for a biathlon or other fitness event, you’ll need to increase the time that you spend training. At the same time, you’ll also have to increase the time you spend devoted to facilitating your body’s recovery.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t workout if you feel sore. I just want to remind you that fitness isn’t all working out. It’s what you do to take care of your body, too.
Photo credit: Amy Goalen Photography.