Thursday, August 9, 2012

Exercise and the Active Recovery

     Did you know that when you do a new or challenging workout, your muscles get stronger by breaking down and rebuilding? When this process occurs, muscles create waste products that can cause muscle soreness. A workout recovery period circulates blood through the muscles, removing waste product and re-oxygenating the muscles, according to Karla Trotta, physical therapist at Total Rehab Care.

Who Needs a Recovery Period?
     A workout recovery period is good for people at any fitness level, but the greater the intensity and effort, the greater the need for a planned recovery. If you’re new to exercise, aim for three days a week of physical activity, with days of rest in between. Avid fitness enthusiasts should plan for at least one day off a week. “Everyone needs a day off,” says Karla. “Active recovery” is low intensity exercise like walking, yoga, Pilates, or casual biking.

Here are Karla’s tips on how to “rest” after a good workout: 
Cool down. Help circulate blood and re-oxygenate muscles by lowering your intensity level immediately after a workout. Walk a few blocks after a run or perform shoulder circles after working your shoulder and upper back muscles. An active recovery prevents stiffness and sore muscles.
Stretch. Stretching keeps muscles in a more elongated position and improves the body’s range of motion. Muscles connect to tendons and tendons connect to bone. When there’s less tension on the muscle, there’s less tension on the tendon to the bone.
Replace fluids during and after exercise. “If you feel thirsty, drink! That’s your body telling you to replenish lost fluids,” says Karla. Water does the trick for a workout of less than one hour, but if your exercise exceeds one hour, consume a mixture of water and a sports drink. Remember, you need to drink enough fluids so that your urine turns a pale yellow.
Eat well. It’s best to eat 30 minutes after a workout, according to Karla. Chomp on complex carbohydrates like a banana or bran muffin. Complex carbs help you reabsorb glucose which breaks down to glycogen—the basis for your body’s energy stores. Stay away from simple sugars, don’t skip breakfast, and take advantage of the great fresh fruits and veggies this time of year advises Karla.
Sleep. Aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. Sleep gives your body time to replace energy stores and heal muscles. Sleep deprivation, warns Karla, causes people to overeat and avoid exercise.
Get a massage. Research shows that a massage can reduce muscle soreness by 30%. Try scheduling a massage the day after your toughest workout. If you can’t afford a professional massage, ask your partner to take on the task and switch places. Karla also recommends buying a foam roller (sold at sporting good stores) and letting your body roll on top of it.

How many times does someone encourage you to take time off? Enjoy your workouts, but enjoy your “active” rest too.
By: Anne Gill

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