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How to maximise muscle recovery

Strategic recovery practices after sport or exercise can fast-track results, improve performance and help to prevent injury. 

After COVID disruptions to sports and fitness training and competition, the prospect of returning to peak form and performance can pose the temptation of training harder, longer and more often. However, to make your workout, sport or other fitness regimen sustainable, it’s important to factor in your body’s physiology to optimise progress towards your goals and minimise injury risk. A key component is recovery. While preparation including your warm-up is important, recovery is the most influential component of any exercise program. Why? 

Recovery perks (why bother)

    • It gives the body time  to heal and repair in preparation for the next training load
    • It promotes better performance
    • It decreases the risk of injury

Best recovery practices 

Research reveals a number of simple practices that promote optimal recovery.

  • Sleep at least eight hours per night. Set and stick to a regular routine of bedtime and waking.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol after training. If you can’t avoid it entirely, limit intake to 1 drink (female) or 2 drinks (male).
  • Hydrate by regularly drinking water to a total volume of at least 2 litres of water a day (more if you’re engaging in exercise that promotes perspiration).
  • Plan your meals to prepare your body for exercise and to promote optimal repair and recovery (seek the advice of an accredited practising dietitian for optimal meal components and quantities and supplements if appropriate).
  • Include a formal warm-up session and cool-down session before and after exercise. The warm-up should be specific to the type of activity you are about to complete. Ideally, both your warm-up and cool-down will cover  movement in all three planes of motion and include dynamic stretches/movements, strengthening exercises and cardiovascular work.
  • Avoid static stretching before exercise as it can reduce muscle strength, power and explosiveness.
  • When working towards a goal, build training loads over a few weeks. Going too hard, too fast is often false economy.
  • Include foam rolling before and after exercise to promote myofascial release and assist with recovery. Foam rolling may reduce the severity and/or duration of DOMS.  
  • Consider wearing compression garments during exercise. Some research suggests that this can reduce the severity of DOMS and fast-track muscle function recovery.  

If you’re keen to optimise performance and minimise injury risk, a Soaring Health physiotherapist can devise a personalised plan to help you to achieve your fitness goals. 

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