How many times have you heard someone to tell you to add stretching to your training regimen? I think I have heard it more times than the dentist has told me to flossy daily. Unfortunately, my success rate in incorporating either of these daily practices is about the same…nil. With the dreaded 30s setting in, I have made it a mission to begin practicing what I like to call self-care and this year and thus I plan to add various self-care regimens into my training schedule.
It wasn't until I fully understood that self-care actually improves ones training capacity did I buy in. When we train, we are constantly causing some type of injury to our muscles. Each time we lift, we are experiencing microscopic tears in our muscles. While this may sound scary, it isn't, this is actually how muscles grow in strength. We tear the muscle and then it rebuilds itself to be even stronger. This damage is why we wake up sore the day after training or even several days after training. Although soreness and microscopic muscle tears are normal, failing to implement self-care will eventually limit your gains. This is because you will either be more susceptible to injury, or your muscles will repair in a manner that creates little nodules which minimize the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscle, thus restricting growth. The best way someone explained it to me was this: when muscles undergo these microscopic tears, the tears scab over and without proper care to eliminate the nodules, blood and oxygen are blocked by the nodules which makes it more difficult for your muscles to contract in the proper manner, thus minimizing your gains.
With all of the new innovation, it is easier than ever to take care of your body. As we have been stressing, recovery is key to a sustainable fitness regime and far too many people diminish the impact recovery has on our bodies. So without further ado we bring you the best ways to give those muscles a little TLC.
Basic stretching is underutilized. Studies suggest that athletes should not engage in muscle specific stretching prior to training, however, it is encouraged during sets and after training. Stretching helps change the length of the muscle and thereby improving range of motion and reducing stiffness.
Often times, simply stretching is not enough and we need a little assistance. Use all the tools in the gym in your mobility training. For example, resistance bands provide a great way to further stretch muscles. Foam rolling or lacrosse balls are another great tool. These (pain) devices are ideal for targeting specific knots that form in the muscle. Releasing these knots helps reestablish proper movement patterns and ultimately enhances performance.
While the foam roller and the lacrosse ball are great for smaller knots, often times deep tissue massages are required for athletes that have larger knots, deep knots, or issues with tendons and fascia. Deep tissue massages focus on breaking up the knots which will in turn bring new blood supply and oxygen to the muscles so they can function properly. Over-trained muscles can become rock hard and thus the supply of blood is less fluid. Breaking up the knots will gradually restore normal function. Depending on the condition of the athlete, many sessions may be required to break up the knots. If you're training frequently, it is suggested that you save up and get a deep tissue massage monthly.
Cyrotherapy is relatively new. If you have seen a person standing in a deep-freezing tank, this is cryotherapy. Cyrotherapy evolved from applying ice packs to injuries in order to help the blood vessels constrict, thus reducing blood flow, alleviating pain, swelling and inflammation. Cyrotherapy exposes the body to very low temperatures (-200 degrees) for a few minutes. While there are some claims that Cyrotherapy will help you lose weight, there is no evidence of such, but it can help relieve muscle soreness and reduce inflammation.
These are just a few ways to help your body recover from the stress you put in through during workouts. Make sure to check out LuaVíve's ReFuel to maximize your immediate recovery post workout!