After over a year of lockdowns and “staying home to stay safe,” we are collectively feeling the need to regain our strength, fitness and to shed those extra quarantine-induced pounds. With that mindset, it is easy to push ourselves to and past our physical limits. Let’s just call it “damage control.” The problem is, so-called “damage control” can actually be very, well… damaging. You see, if you are constantly pushing yourself to your maximum capacity without any room for muscle and joint recovery, you are going to cause your body severe harm over time. Exercise breaks down your muscle fibers, and when they naturally rebuild, they come back stronger. But if you never allow the process of rebuilding to occur, you are going to deplete your muscle tissue, and your joints will be over-compensating. This is in addition to the potential damage to your tendons and connective tissue. Remember this: exercise is not a form of punishment. It is not meant to be penance for eating a donut or for an all-day couch-centric Netflix binge, or even for a year of “falling off the wagon.” (Don’t worry, you are not alone. We are all feeling the same way.)
Instead, exercise should be an essential and consistent part of your lifestyle. It should be a way to maintain your body and keep your mind and body connected. Holistically, this will yield better lifestyle habits overall. When you are in tune with your physical self, your diet and sleep patterns will improve. You will be less stressed. Your focus will likely shift from mindless consumption (spanning everything from food, to alcohol, to garbage television) to a self-care regimen. No, we are not saying you shouldn’t challenge yourself. We are saying that after intense workouts (i.e., heavy weightlifting or HIIT training), you should also plan for workout recovery. Learn how to speed up muscle recovery with restorative fitness techniques and exercises. Keep reading to learn more.
WHAT IS RESTORATIVE FITNESS?
Simply put, restorative fitness is exactly what it sounds like. It intentionally focuses on letting oxygen flow to muscles and joints after an intense workout to let them heal and recover. This can be done in several ways (via stretching, breathing techniques, and relaxation exercises – more on that later).
Oxygen is what helps muscle recovery the most. It helps to cleanse the body by flushing out toxins and bringing new cells to targeted areas. Restorative fitness also allows you to access your parasympathetic system (AKA the rest and digest system). This is the same system activated during Savasana in yoga, meditation, or when you get a massage or float in a sensory deprivation tank. It encourages the regeneration of cells and promotes workout recovery.
HOW TO RECOVER POST-WORKOUT:
If you are wondering how to speed up muscle recovery, there are two main components to restorative fitness. They are active recovery workouts and relaxation for muscle recovery. Ideally, both should be incorporated into your restorative fitness plan.
Active Recovery Workouts:
Active recovery workouts involve positioning your joints and muscles in ways that allow stretching and releasing and promote blood and oxygen flow to targeted areas. One of the most popular forms of this is gentle yoga. (If you are new to the Yoga scene and aren’t sure where to begin, try attending a Hatha Yoga class – virtual or in person, whatever makes you feel comfortable.) LCG Boston offers Yoga Physical Therapy (which can be scheduled in your own home, one on one.) If you are not ready for in-person contact and proximity, check out our Virtual Physical Therapy program.
If yoga isn’t your thing, but you are wondering how to recover post-workout, it is still entirely possible to achieve this simply by stretching. Try to include both active stretches and passive stretches. It is extremely important to bridge the gap between your passive and active flexibility ranges to prevent injury. You will also be able to target your joints’ inner workings to send blood flow to those areas. All too often, those are the areas that are neglected and weak (sometimes without us realizing it), ultimately leading to injury.
Four Tips to Improve Flexibility
Relaxation for Muscle Recovery:
Another means of muscle recovery is by intentionally relaxing the body and its muscles, joints, and connective tissue. This can be done in many ways. Massage is usually a crowd favorite. Who doesn’t love a good rub down, wherein your muscles just melt into putty? Given the contagious nature of the Coronavirus, we totally understand if massage therapy is outside your comfort zone at the moment. But, if you are up for it, Percussion Massage is one of our favorite alternative therapies here at LCG.
Another favorite method is to float in a flotation therapy tank. If this concept is new to you, flotation therapy involves a solo trip inside of a single-person-sized flotation tank. The tank is filled with a foot or less of very salty water that is maintained at perfect body temperature. It is completely dark inside and also soundproof. The idea is that while inside, you will have basically no sensations. Your experience while in the tank should be free of sounds, smells, touch, and vision. This allows you to tune entirely into your own body and mind. They call this “REST,” which is an acronym for restricted environmental stimulation therapy. The sensation of being weightless and in dark silence is very therapeutic and induces profound states of relaxation.
If you aren’t too sure about flotation therapy, another easy and more accessible way to achieve muscle recovery is simply to take a hot bath, which can be done in the comfort and safety of your own home. Feel free to add in Epsom salts and essential oils. Light some candles for ambiance, and relax!