In the process of becoming a trainer, I learned a lot, and one of the things that I learned about was the recovery process that the body goes through after a workout. It’s a science.
What I learned about this process has helped me with my own workouts and has given me new insights into what I can recommend to clients who don’t know how to properly recover after a workout. When you work out hard, there are steps you can take to recover faster than if you did nothing.
I’m going to list three (3) of those ways. These will help you recover faster.
The one biggest secret is foam rolling.
Now, don’t roll your eyes. I used to think it was only for girls and wusses who weren’t serious workout guys.
Now bear with me while I give you the facts. Foam Rolling or Self-Myofascial Release is one of the secrets on how to recover faster and better than if you did nothing. When used properly, the benefits are numerous. It can help prevent injuries, aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness and pain.
Foam rolling will increase blood flow and hence helps your recovery. You need to stay away from joints and ligaments, and only foam roll on muscles. This will assure that you don’t injure yourself and this way you’ll get the benefits that foam rolling provides.
Another use for foam rolling is during your workout. If you get a tight muscle while you’re doing an exercise, stop and go foam roll the muscle and then go back to your exercise. This will prevent injuries and will allow you to work out to your max. Just last night, I felt some pain in my right delt when doing a shoulder press. I immediately went and foam rolled it. That took the tightness away and I was able to go back and finish my shoulder routine without any discomfort or injury. Almost magical.
Here are four (4) foam rolling exercises that you should start with. Foam rolling is specifically used to help you lengthen and stretch muscles that are tight and contracted. It can work on many parts of the body. These 4 are the most common areas that need attention.
- QUADS (featured image) When foam rolling the quads you want to place the foam roller just above the knee and roll up to the hip. Do this with long slow passes up and down. If you come across a particularly sensitive area or knot, stay on top of it for 30 seconds and relax into it. After the 30 seconds, the area should start to open up. Once you have spent around two minutes on one quad, switch to the other quad and repeat.
- CALVES The calves are quite possibly the most overlooked group of muscles when it comes to recovery. If you run, hike, lift, or do almost any sport, your calves will always be heavily involved. It is very important that you give some foam rolling attention to your calves. Doing so can keep the ankle joint mobile and also keep the Achilles tendon safe. When rolling the calves, start with your calf on top of the roller and then cross your other foot on top to create a little more resistance and pressure. Plant your hands behind you and lift your hips. Next, roll up and down your calf. Spend roughly one minute on each calf.
- IT BAND This is the long fibrous reinforcement on the outside of your leg that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. This muscle is used in lots of exercises – squats, lunges and is important if you’re a runner.
Now you don’t want to roll the IT Band itself. You want to roll the back and front muscles that connect to it. When rolling the front side, you will start in the same position as when rolling your quads; then you will shift your body slightly to the outside but not directly on top of the IT band. Roll up and down from the top of the knee to the hip.
Sometimes the IT band area can be sensitive and painful, so find the right foam roller hardness for you.
After two minutes on the front side, you will switch to the rear side of the IT band.
Sitting on your butt, place the roller under your leg or on the hamstring. Then place your hands behind you to create support. Turn your leg slightly to the outside and off the middle of the hamstring. Then proceed to roll up and down, avoid rolling the back of the knee and stop on any sensitive areas. After two minutes, switch legs.
Rolling the glutes (your butt) will be beneficial for anyone who sits a lot during the day. Rolling your glutes will help relieve lower back pain. When rolling the glutes, you want to start off by sitting on the foam roller and placing your hands behind you for support. Start by making small passes up and down your butt.It’s not a very large area so you only need to move back and forth about six inches. Roll two minutes on each side.
Here’a video from my favorite YouTube trainer explaining what you SHOULDN’T be doing when you foam roll.
Don’t be lethargic on your days off.
Something as simple as doing some stretching exercises or doing a half hour of yoga will help on your days off. Either of those activities will keep your joints flexible and your blood flowing, both essential for the growth of your muscles.
Here is a 3-minute video with Jerome to show you some simple stretches you can do on your days off. These are specifically designed for weightlifters. If you do these on your days off, you’ll be ready and flexible when you go back to the gym on your regular exercise days.
Relax and Meditate
When you do intense workouts, it’s necessary to try and reduce all your life stress so that your muscles and body can grow as a result of the stress you’ve put on your muscles. Any form of mental stress in your life is going to take a toll on your overall well-being and your body’s capability to recover and handle stress.
Take steps to reduce your mental stress level so you can bounce back faster. Do something you really enjoy, make yourself laugh, and surround yourself with people you love.
Take a nice long walk in a beautiful place. Take an easy bike ride in your neighborhood. Bike to a park and hang out.
Meditation is another practice that I find can reduce much of the stress in your life.
Meditation will reduce much of the mental stress in your life if you’ll stick with it for a month or more. It takes some time for it to start working. You don’t necessarily need music, as the video suggests. I don’t use music and find it better for me. Some people use a phrase they repeat over and over. See what works for you.
Don’t give up too early. You may not start to feel the benefits for several months. Meditation alone has helped me sleep better.
All three of the recovery methods I list here are diverse in nature, but all will help you recover from a good workout and get you prepared for your next one.
If you’ve got comments or other recovery methods that you use, let us know in the comment section below. We welcome feedback from our readers.
See you at the gym.