6 Rules of Recovery
Improve your results and reduce your aches and pains with these gym-tested, research-backed tips
Getting stronger is a two-step process: 1. Lift; 2. Recover. We often focus on the first step and pay lip service to the second. Bad idea. “Every time you work out, you’re digging yourself a hole,” says John Rusin, a physiotherapist who specialises in athletic performance and recovery. Recovery is refilling that hole before you challenge your body again. Here are six ways to recover right.
FIND WAYS TO CALM YOUR BODY
Target sleep and stress. If you can’t sleep eight hours a night, then learn to nap. Take naps no later than mid-afternoon or you risk ruining that night’s sleep. Aim for about 20 minutes; any longer and you’ll sleep too deeply and wake up groggy. For stress, end workouts with five minutes of deep breathing while lying on your back, feet slightly elevated, Rusin advises. It’s not a cure-all, but it helps.
CONSUME PLENTY OF PROTEIN AND WATER
Aim for 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight daily, says Dr Stuart Phillips, of Mcmaster University. As for hydration, there’s an easy way to assess that, says nutritionist Dr Mike Roussell. Clear urine means you’re drinking enough. Fewer than two clear or semi-clear urinations a day means you’re not. And no, ph-balanced waters don’t help.
3 ALLOW ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN WORKOUTS
According to the 48-hour rule, you should wait at least two days before hitting the same muscle again. That’s fine for single-joint moves such as biceps curls, but you may need up to four days to recover from heavy multi-joint lifts like bench presses, suggests research in the International Journal of Exercise Science. If you go heavy on your chest on Monday, go for higher reps and lower weight later that week.
4 ALLOW ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN SETS
Most trainers prescribe 3-5 minutes of rest between sets if your goal is strength and 60 seconds if your goal is size. But a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning compared rest intervals of one minute and three minutes and found that the longer breaks were significantly better for both strength and size of most muscle groups over an eight-week program.
5 DON’T BE AFRAID TO STRETCH
It was once believed that doing extended static stretches before exercising could make you slower and weaker. Now? We all need to stretch pre-workout, says strength coach Mike Boyle. Hit areas that shorten when you sit: quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, chest and biceps. Hold each stretch for five deep breaths, which should take about 20-30 seconds. Foam-roll before your workouts too, says Rusin.
6 SPEND YOUR REST DAYS BEING ACTIVE
Studies show that active rest on non-workout days – a 45-minute walk, for example – reduces soreness. But that’s not why you should make it a habit. Easy movement clears metabolic waste from your extremities. It’s nature’s detox, aiding with soreness and more. “Recovery isn’t just not feeling sore,” Rusin explains. “There are mental, physical and emotional aspects to it as well.”