Learn the science behind muscle recovery and discover natural ways to recover from a workout. Give your muscles the best chance to stay pain-free during your post-workout routine.
Why Do We Need to Warm Up and Cool Down?
Warming up helps prepare your body for aerobic activity — any exercise that requires your body to pump oxygenated blood to the muscles you’ll be using. By warming up, you preheat your body temperature and start to slowly increase blood flow to your muscles before your cardiovascular system goes into full activity. This might be a run or a cross fit session. An example of warming up would be walking at a fast pace for 5-10 minutes before starting a run.
Once you cease your exercise session it’s time for a cool down period. An example of a cool down for running would be slowing to a reduced pace for 3 minutes after a 25-minute run and then slowing to a walk before finishing up.
One study suggests that a warm-up reduces delayed onset muscle soreness but a cool-down does not. However, cooling down could help prevent the build-up of blood in your veins, which can lead to dizziness or fainting.
Have Recovery Clothing
It’s a good idea to keep warm after your run for reasons such as, preventing illness, preventing injury and keeping your muscles primed for the next exercise set.
We won’t always have our choice of weather conditions or time of day when it comes to our physical activity. Sometimes a run along the blustery seafront after work is all that’s available to us. Even if you brave the elements during your run, it’s important to plan for a dry victory lap.
If your run doesn’t finish at your house, but instead where you have parked your car, make sure you have a bag with a towel and some dry clothes for the way home even if you’re going to shower later. If you still have a way to go on foot, an outer shell or a fleece layer and a woolly hat can help keep the sweat away from your skin and create air layers that will keep your muscles warm.
What Does Compression Clothing Do?
Compression clothing refers to the form fitting exercise garments that usually come in the form of tights, socks or tops. The fitted nature of compression items such as running tights means that there is direct pressure applied to your leg muscles during your warm up, exercise session and cool down. This pressure is extremely welcome on the muscles in the cool down phase, as anyone who has experienced the benefits of a sports massage after a high intensity workout might know. Compression leggings are often purposely tighter on the ankle and knee so that blood can flow easier in your lower legs.
Do you stretch before you run to limber up? Well if so, now it’s time to extend that discipline to your post-run routine. Just a few minutes of stretching your hip flexor muscles, your thighs, your hamstring, your lower back and calves will help you keep your ‘running equipment’ in order. You can find detailed information on stretching techniques here.
Post Workout Nutrition
In the 30 to 45-minute window after your cool down, feed your muscles with a combination of carbohydrates and protein. In this time period, the muscles will best absorb the nutrients they need for growth and recovery. After this period, it’s still OK to eat but the chances of muscles experiencing ‘starvation’ and causing aches and soreness later are increased. The aim is to replenish your glycogen (energy stores), decrease protein breakdown and to assist protein synthesis.
If your routine is set up to incorporate a meal afterwards, build the dish around 20g of protein. 100g of boiled chicken, lean beef or turkey would suffice. If your routine involves a post-workout shake and you don’t like the taste of whey protein drinks, Greek yogurt is a handy protein base to build a berry and protein dessert around.
It might seem like the solution for everything from getting more sleep, to achieving better skin is to stay hydrated, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. In a 5km run you can lose 250ml+ water from your system, depending on running conditions and your fitness. Not only does this water need to be replenished post-run, but your body also needs water to help keep joints lubricated and to help with converting food to energy beforehand. How much water should a runner drink the rest of the day? This differs according to a person’s weight and height. Use this hydration calculator to find your advised intake.
When you sweat, you also lose electrolytes through excreted salt and potassium. These ionic particles carry electrical charges throughout the body and keep your water stores in your cells at the necessary levels so muscles and organs continue to perform. Avoid high sugar energy drinks that boast electrolyte restoring powers and add a sachet of Dioralyte hydration salts to a glass of water post run. Those who experience cramping during long endurance exercises such as a marathon could benefit from hydrating mid-race with a water/electrolyte solution.
Enhanced Natural Recovery
Those looking to enhance their cool down experience and transition from exercise to relaxation, will be delighted at the introduction of the VOYA Muscle Recovery range.
Two new products, Serenergise and Feel the Heat gently awaken the senses through an invigorating scent. Apply just as the muscles begin to warm and unwind, to allow for a sense of deep relaxation and release.
A muscle healing and fatigue-reducing body oil, Serenergise combines muscle relaxation with the detoxifying benefits of seaweed, as it works to revive, stimulate and soothe aching muscles. Add Serenergise to your routine to help detoxify and reduce muscular tension and stiffness.
Feel the Heat
For instant relief to muscle aches add Feel the Heat, a soothing warming gel to your gym bag. The unique blend of Fucus Serratus seaweed and other natural ingredients help breakdown lactic acid and to lead to reduced swelling whilst eliminating toxins.
Cool Down Bath
We’ve all heard of marathon runners and GAA teams talking about the recovery ice bath session that awaits them win or lose, but what’s the thinking behind it? Cold therapy exposes your muscles to an extremely low temperature in order to soothe the micro tears in your muscle fibres and resulting aches and pains that athletes suffer as a result of repeat exercise. It can also help remove the waste products of exercise such as lactic acid from your system. It does this by tightening the blood vessels which then causes them to drain acid. Those not wishing to pour a bag of ice in the bath and sit in it waist high for 7 minutes, could apply a cold compress to the exercised muscles instead.
For those who prefer the heat, a warm bath or shower can also promote blood flow which can remove waste and toxins in the body and initiate muscle and tissue healing. To enhance this experience further, make your post-workout bath a seaweed one with VOYA’s Lazy Days. The combination of seaweed and sea salt can aid in the muscle recovery process.