Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or a physical therapist. This Post simply gives my personal opinion on some recovery techniques I implement in my own strength program. Additionally, this Post does not address injuries, but the general soreness and fatigue that comes from training hard and with intensity.
If you train and train the way you should, you will be sore. You even will feel some pain as you push yourself harder than you thought possible. Dave Tate recently spoke of this in his article "Under the Bar: How Strong is Your Pain". Dave stated that "Most of us will have we have a lot of pain to endure if we plan to reach our highest potential. The farther down the path you go, the more minor pain you find needs to be ignored. Throughout our journey we will be tested. As athletes, when we pulled our first muscle we felt it was the end of the world and were out of the sport for good. If our joints hurt we would run to the doctor because we “knew” it was major."
Here's the important part. Dave explained that "[t]he ones who figure out how to deal with the pain and keep moving forward are the ones who succeed. Let me rephrase that; the ones who know the difference between what is 'part of the game' and what is not are the ones who succeed. Simply put, they’re the ones who “ball up” move forward. The ones who bitch and complain that they can’t take the pain and look for excuses are the ones who stay put."
Now, while soreness and pain are part of the process, there are things you should be doing to minimize the pain and soreness, prevent injury, and expedite recovery so your ready for your next training session. Here are five techniques to recovery I implement in my own program:
It goes without saying that getting approximately 8 hours of sleep per night greatly aids your recovery. While you sleep your body releases growth hormone. The amount of growth hormone your body releases is largely dependent upon the quantity and quality of sleep. Growth hormone plays a large role in the repair and growth of muscle tissue. So, if you want to ensure adquate recovery, get an adeuqate night's rest.
Additionally, if you can, take a 20-30 minute nap each day. Getting 8 hours of sleep and a short nap each day will help ensure you have enough energy to push through even the hardest training session.
Proper nutrition provides your muscles the very thing they need to recover and grow. One of the most important macro-nutrients is protein. Simply put, our muscles use protein to rebuild and repair. I typically advise athletes and those who train hard to consume approximately .8 - 1 gram of protein per pound that the individual weighs. Typically, I recommend women take .6 - .8 grams per pound.
Another important macronutrient is carbohydrates. Carbs not only supply energy to the body, but they also help put the body into an "anabolic state" (i.e., muscle growing/building state). Carbs are converted into glucose. The rise in blood sugar subsequently results in the release of the anabolic hormone insulin. Insulin assists the body in the transfer of nutrients to the muscles needed for growth and repair. Obviously, most of your carbs should come from such sources as oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread.
Additional nutritional principles for recovery include eating often (tpyically 5-6 times per day), with your protein intake spread throughout the day. Never skip breakfast. You can take supplements such as a multi-vitmain, fish oil, magnesium and zinc.
3. SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is a technique one can use to help relax tense and sore muscles, decrease scar tissue, and improve mobility. One of the most common SMR tools is the foam roller (see picture above). The foam roller is nice because you can basically work every muscle group in your body. The position of the SMR tool and the duration of its use is largely dependent upon the targeted muscle group, the soreness of the muscle, and the condition/quality of the muscle. A great guide to foam folling is this video from Joe Hashey.
It goes without saying that you should schedule some days off. Currently, I do not lift weights on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. I use those days to rest and recover. Now, that does not mean I do no physical activity. I just refrain from lifting weights. On those days I perform intervals and mobility work.
Additionally, I never train the same muscle groups two days in a row. That gives my muscles enough time to recover before hitting them hard in the next session. Finally, I believe that you need to be willing to modify your program on a day-to-day basis. Some days I go into the gym just not feeling it. I'm either worn out or stressed out. I have no guilt on those days shortening my training or changing my routine (e.g., not going as heavy). This is no excuse to be lazy, but listen to your body. When it says rest, rest.
5. MISC TECHNIQUES
Additional techniques to help you recover and ease soreness include contrast showers, ice baths, massages, stretching, taking anti-inflammatory medicine, and ice and compression wraps. I have used all of these techniques with great success.
Now, GO TRAIN!!