9 Steps to Post-Workout Recovery

Written By Chiropractic Health and Wellness on September 30, 2009

So, you have finally dragged yourself to the gym; you eked out more sit-ups, push-ups, and miles today than you have in the past 5 years, and now you are exhausted, but you want to keep up your new workout regimen.  Recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building.  A muscle needs anywhere from 24-48 hours after a workout to repair and rebuild, especially after a strength workout.  If recovery is not taken, a muscle simply will start to break down instead of build.  Here are 9 ways to make the most of your recovery hours that will keep the muscle soreness at a minimum, boost your energy level, and make your fitness goals a reality:


1.                  Rest.  Rest is one of the best ways to heal from illness, injury, and even from a tough workout.  So, kick off your shoes, sit back, or tuck yourself in early, and let your natural healing mechanisms take over.

2.                  Cool Down.  After you workout, allow your body 5-10 minutes of a low intensity walk or jog.  This allows the body time to rid itself of the excess lactic acid that built up in your muscles during your sweat session, decreasing potential muscle soreness and stiffness.

3.                  Replace fluids.  Drink water before, during and after a workout.  Water is your body's most important nutrient, is involved in every bodily function, and makes up 70- 75% of your total body weight. Water helps you to maintain body temperature, metabolize body fat, aids in digestion, lubricates and cushions organs, transports nutrients, and flushes toxins from your body.  Reducing water in the body by as little as 5% can result in as much as a 20-30% drop in your physical performance, 10% reduction can make you sick, and 20% can be fatal.

4.                  Stretch it out.  Gentle stretching after a workout can significantly decrease post workout soreness and stiffness.

5.                  Eat smart.  After depleting your body during your grueling workout, you need to eat properly to give your body the energy to recover, rebuild tissues, gain strength and be ready for the next challenge.  Lean meats, fresh veggies and fruits, and eggs are great choices.

6.                  Get a massage.  Call your neighborhood massage therapist (Amanda and Courtney at CHWC), recruit a friend, or exchange a massage with a workout partner for muscle work that is sure to improve circulation (helps to move the built-up lactic acid out of the muscles) and enhance relaxation.  You can also try a foam roller.  Foam rollers are an inexpensive way to release tight muscle fascia and muscle adhesions.

7.                  Active recovery/Cross Training.  During your recovery hours or on your "off" day, try cross training.  For example, if you are a runner, you may use both biking and swimming each week to improve your overall aerobic capacity, build overall muscle strength and reduce the chance of an overuse injury. Cross training limits the stress that occurs on a specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways.

8.                  Ice, Ice Baby.  10-20 minutes of ice therapy 2-3 times a day, such as ice baths, ice packs, or ice cups, enables the body to recover quickly, reduce muscle soreness, and prevent injury.  Some athletes like to alternate ice and heat; repeated constriction and dilation of the blood vessels helps to flush out or remove waste products from the tissues.

9.                  Work out smarter, not harder.  Take the time to plan your workouts for the week or for the month.  If you can alternate intense workouts with intermediate workouts, you can avoid the perils and risks of overtraining.  Excessive exercise, heavy training at every workout, and lack of rest days can actually slow your progression toward your fitness goals and inhibit your recovery.


Happy and Speedy Recovery!


Kristen Watts, Chiropractic Intern