Column: Sports Health By Liz Ostrowski, MS,ATC, CSCS

Everyone is continually talking about getting physically active and how to stay physically active. But you don’t hear a lot of talk about how to recover from strenuous physical activity.  It doesn’t matter if the workout is for a sport, training for a marathon, or just your daily exercise routine. We all need to recover from our activities to help lessen the muscle soreness and joint pain that comes along with a tough workout. There are many ways to recover from a workout. Here are a few of the best ways to help your body recover.

Ice bath

It’s a tried and true solution to feeling better. After a tough workout, fill up your bath tub with cold water and dump some ice cubes into it. Sit in the ice bath for 8-10 minutes. The cold water will help reduce inflammation in your muscles. If you try this and have cold toes, place a pair of old socks over the toes and first part of the foot to keep or toes from getting to cold.

Foam rolling and massage

Many people can’t afford to go get a professional massage after every workout. The good news is there are many alternatives to help loosen muscles without a massage.  Try doing a self-massage by kneading your own leg muscles or feet after a hard workout. If you want a deeper massage you can find an old tennis ball, baseball, or softball and use that to roll out your muscles. Getting a foam roller to hit the larger muscles like the back and thigh muscles is a good idea if you have tight muscles in those areas.

Sleep

Many people push themselves and don’t get a lot of sleep every night. The body repairs itself while it’s sleeping which means you need to get a good night’s rest in order to help alleviate your muscle soreness and to build more muscle.

Eat a balanced diet

Some days it seems impossible to eat a well-balanced diet with a busy schedule.  Yet it’s one of the most important factors to recovering after physical activity. The best way to replenish the energy needed to recover from a workout is to eat actual food. Go home and have a glass of milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get the protein and carbohydrates that you need. If you eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meat, bread and dairy you will not have to worry about taking supplements to fuel your body’s recovery after a workout.

Cross train

An active recovery is better than just sitting around feeling sore. There are some activities that can still give you a bit of a workout but help recover the body. Swimming is a great cross training exercise. Hopping in the pool the day after a tough workout will feel energizing. Other activities like yoga, Pilates or even a light walk will keep you moving while your body gets ready for the next intense workout. An added benefit is not feeling guilty for skipping a day of working out.

Adding some of these recovery techniques into your routine can help you stay active without feeling as stiff and sore the day after your workout. Proper recovery from strenuous physical activity is just as important as the workout itself.

Do you have a question for the Lake Region Healthcare Sports Medicine team you would like to see addressed in this space in the future?  Send your questions to SportsMed@lrhc.org and it may be featured in an upcoming article.

Liz Ostrowski is an athletic trainer for Lake Region Healthcare Sports Medicine.

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