Thursday, December 1, 2011

You worked out! Now what?

You just had a training session with your favorite half-Chinese trainer. You foam rolled, did trap-bar deadlifts, lunges, pullups, pushups and Pallof presses. Time to go home, put your feet up, and click on the newest episode of The Real Housewives of Somebody Kill Me Please, right?

Well, if that is your post-workout routine, you are missing out on a little thing that we, in the industry, call "recovery". 

Every time you work out, you cause damage to your muscles. You create tiny tears in the muscle fibers that, when healed, come back bigger and stronger. Your body will naturally take care of this recovery process, but there are ways to optimize it, allowing you to come back to the weight room faster and stronger than before. 

1) For the love of God, EAT!! - Post workout is one of the best times of day to have a big, calorically dense meal. You may think you are "un-doing" your work in the weight room, but in reality you are feeding your body what it needs to re-build itself into a stronger machine. For a while after your workout, your body continues to run at a higher metabolic rate (EPOC), consuming food during this time period means that it's all getting sucked up and put to work where it needs to be used: muscles. Try and eat between 30-60 minutes after you're done training. (This is one of the reasons you see "meatheads" carrying shakers of protein powder to the gym, instant nutrition). Protein provides the necessary ingredients to rebuild your muscles, and carbs will replenish the glycogen (energy) stores you just depleted with that workout. Have a meal with a good lean-protein source, some good carbs (rice, quinoa, sweet potato) and loads of green leafy veggies!

2) Drink Water - This is something that I am guilty of not doing enough of. I find that I will drink plenty of water when I am working out and when I am training people...and that's it. I just don't remember to drink water during the rest of the day. Water is found in active tissues in the body (for our purposes, muscles). The water in your muscle tissues helps conduct the processes that produce muscular contractions (electrolytes, nerve impulses, blah blah). You should be sweating during your workout, so drinking water afterwards is simply replenishing the supplies you just lost. Coffee, tea, iced tea and Gatorade don't count!

3) Get off the computer and go to bed!! - Also, something that I am occasionally guilty of. I tend to do a lot of my homework later at night, and can easily find myself limiting the amount of sleep I can get. Sleepytime is when your body is able to perform the majority of it's recovery processes. You have nothing else going on metabolically, so your body can devote as much energy as possible to rebuilding and restoring everything. The amount of sleep everybody need's on a nightly basis varies, but the more the better; especially if you are training hard. And, no, catching up on the weekend doesn't count. You can't "make up" sleep in one or two nights. 

4) Massages are a good great thing! - Soft tissue work is extremely important for the hard-training individual. All those hard sessions will leave your body beat up a little, with adhesions in some key areas. Foam rolling? That's soft tissue work. It's great that you do it every time you lift, but in the end it really isn't enough. Deep tissue, Graston Technique and ART are all things that should be considered by folks who train hard. Your upper back, hips and shoulders are all places that can be helped a LOT by some good soft tissue work. Limited by funds? Get your significant other to massage your back for you. Single? Work out a deal with a massage buddy. You rub my back, I rub your back. Boom. 

5) Stay Active - Even when DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) sets in, you need to keep moving. If you just had a huge squat session, and your bum and quads are really sore and tight, it's probably not the best time to go do another heavy leg session. But its a great time to walk, do some light bodyweight lunges or bodyweight squats. Don't allow the tightness to creep in, or the adhesions to take hold. Keep moving! It might be a little uncomfortable, but I bet it won't be any more uncomfortable than the squat session that you got you here!

Keep it moving!
These are just some easy tips to help you recover from a hard training session. Of course, there are some sessions that are just going to leave you beat to hell regardless of what you do for recovery. We call these "great days". Go lift some heavy shit, and then give these a shot!

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