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  • Writer's pictureDr. Taylor Ferguson

Recovery 101

Recovery is a word that gets thrown around often, but it means different things to different people. It should be something that is practiced regularly by active individuals, however I am not naïve to the fact that it is one of the weakest areas of most peoples’ fitness routine. Below, in no specific order, are my top 5 recovery practices:

• Hydrate!

Drinking water is key for our overall health, performance, and recovery. Over 60% of our body mass is made up of water and every tissue in our body, including individual cells, depend on water. When we exercise and perspire we are loosing water and electrolytes. It is important to then replenish. Consider increasing your water intake both before and after bouts of intense exercise. Additionally, water follows salt, by way of osmosis. At times simply drinking water is not enough. We must create a concentration gradient by increasing our salt intake in order for our water consumption to alter our hydration level and contribute to our recovery. On days of intense workouts, excessive temperatures, or multiple workouts, it may be necessary to add sea salt to your water. The ideal ratio is 1/8th of a teaspoon per every 16 ounces of water. And, be sure to use naturally occurring sea salt, such as Himalayan pink sea salt, not table salt!

• Magnesium

Magnesium is the “wonder” mineral. It is used in over 300 cellular processes daily. One of its effects is to calm the nervous system; which is helpful for improving sleep and allows the muscles a chance to recover. Another process that Magnesium plays an active role in biochemically is protein synthesis. This is important as your body works to rebuild the damage and tearing created within your muscles during exercise. Additionally, it is a naturally occurring electrolyte. By increasing your Magnesium, you will also improve your water absorption. Three ways to get Magnesium into your system are by supplementing, increasing your consumption of leafy green vegetables, or by an epsom salt bath.

• Foam Rolling

There is much debate about the efficacy of foam rolling within the exercise and sport science world. I won’t bore you with too much of the nitty gritty, but I wanted to provide clear concise guidelines to be sure your foam rolling habits are giving you therapeutic results. As well as how to specifically utilize them for recovery. If you are using a foam roller to warm up, spend your time rolling areas that will be used during the workout. For example, prior to running or squatting, rolling your glutes, hamstrings, and quads would have be beneficial to your warm up. Secondly, if you are using a foam roller following a workout, roll the muscles that are activated and [will be] sore. By doing this you increase blood flow to the area which helps remove cellular waste, like lactic acid, and bring in fresh metabolic healing properties, which is key for recovery. For more specifics please check out this post on the topic from a few weeks ago,

• Adequate Sleep

Our bodily functions are controlled by two opposing autonomic nervous systems, in the most simplistic physiological explanation. The first being your sympathetic nervous system. This is the nervous system that reacts to external stimuli and stressors throughout your day, often referred to as your “fight or flight system”. The other is your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your digestion and is active during periods of rest, such as sleep. This allows for absorption of nutrients and recovery for your body. When individuals cut their sleeping time or don’t sleep well, they spend less time in a parasympathetic state. This inhibits your body’s ability to rest and recover. On the nights following workouts aim to go to bed a little earlier. The benefits from the food you eat, supplements you take, and the workouts you do are only as good as the amount of time you give your body to absorb the nutrients and rebuild your tissue.

• Active Recovery

When you hear the term “rest day”, do you consider it a day off from the gym? At times this is exactly what you need. It can serve as a mental break as well as a physical break and maybe allow you to get caught up on things at home, at work, or an extra hour of sleep. However, if a rest day always means a day off completely, you may want to consider varying your routine and feeding your system some active recovery. Take a yoga class, go for a walk, test out swimming, etc. The goal of active recovery should be to move your body, differently from a traditional workout, sweat a little, but mostly stay moving consistently for a longer period of time at mild-moderate effort. Changing your routine stimulates a reaction from your body, jumpstarting more recovery. Movement increases blood flow and helps to flush out the metabolic waste and bring in new healing elements.


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