Relax and Recover
Good nutrition and exercise is important. However, recovery and relaxation is equally important. I relax by putting my body in a complete state of rest- mentally and physically. The physical part is easy, the mental, however, can be a real challenge because it is so hard for me not to think about all the things that I have to do. I know I am not alone in that struggle! Recovery for me is more about post exercise techniques to replenish and rejuvenate. Because I exercise about 5 days per week I work on recovery regularly.
I don’t believe recovery is only important after physical exercise though. I work on recovery even after going through intense phases of mental stress, whether it’s a tough day at work or a week long trial. Some days I get home, literally running on empty, but still forcing to push through some exercise, then I listen to my body and work on recovery and relaxation instead. Therefore, what follows below are my thoughts on some recovery and relaxation techniques that I’ve used. Many of them overlap to the extent that they provide both recovery and relaxation.
Replenishing electrolytes is a part of my recovery. Electrolytes are basically what we know as sodium, chloride, magnesium and potassium. We generally get these nutrients in a balanced diet, but they are more quickly depleted by sweat during exercise. Electrolytes help to maintain the balance of functions within cells, like hydration levels, ph level balance, and muscular activity. Deficiency in electrolytes can cause muscle contraction, weakness, cramping etc. I typically have one bottle of water and one bottle of electrolytes during my workouts. On long runs I replenish electrolytes about every hour.
Basically, a sauna has dry heat, while a steam room produces moist heat. Both are great for recovery, but my personal preference is the steam room. The heat helps to relax your muscles and open your pores. Usually after strength training I will spend about 10 minutes in the steam room doing stretches, which are much easier to accomplish at a deeper level in the steam room.
Epsom Salt Soak
In simple terms Epsom salt is magnesium and sulphate. I have been doing Epsom salt baths in warm water regularly after my runs. The theory is that the Epsom salt enters your body through your skin, which is why using warm water is important since that helps to open the pores. I personally think these baths help me to recover after working out, especially when immediately followed with stretching. The bath itself is also very relaxing. I have been using the “Epsoak” brand and like it very much, especially in the lavender scent.
I love hot yoga when I am in the mood for some activerecovery and highly recommend it. In the most basic termsit is a class where an instructor takes you through a series of stretches and poses in a room that is heated to about 90 degrees. Hot yoga is definitely a “practice” that you get better at over time with consistency. My balance and coordination is considerably better when I do yoga regularly. I also enjoy doing a hot yoga class after heavy strength training because the heat and stretching helps to relieve sore muscles. Besides helping with muscle recovery, yoga is a great way to quiet your thoughts and relax your mind. I have never left a yoga class feeling anything less than amazing!
Deep Tissue Massage
Although this typeof massage focuses on going into deeper layers of muscle and tissue, it is a very relaxing process and also helps with recovery from soreness after workouts. Besides helping to relieve chronic muscle tension deep tissue massages are also known to help with stress and anxiety. This service is widely available these days and has become more affordable, so it is definitely worth doing every once in a while.
I have very tight quads and hamstrings and found that thiswas contributing to my knee pain while running. However, foam rolling has helped me with this problem a lot once I am consistent with doing it before and after exercise. The foam roller is excellent for getting into and loosening muscle tissue in a firm, but gentle, massaging way. It is great for rolling out your entire body. At$12 it is worth having one at home.
There is a lot more that could be said, and even more that can be done, for relaxation and recovery. I hope that these select methods that I incorporate in my lifestyle on a regular basis can be as beneficial to you as they are to me. I also hope that my thoughts on these issues trigger your interests in finding your own preferred ways to get some relaxation and recovery done!