In recent years our awareness of the importance of making physical fitness a healthy lifestyle habit has increased, and the research to validate this idea continues to emerge as well. As you probably already know staying fit is about so much more than looking good, and that your over all health and happiness are impacted positively by regular exercise. There are workout studios popping up left and right in major cities and it seems there are more fun and creative ways to work up a sweat than ever which is all great. However, while as a society we are realizing the impact of physical fitness on overall health and getting more active, one crucial component to fitness seems to be left out of our routines quite often: recovery! As more of us are working out it’s also important that we are allowing our bodies to recover properly after exercising for a few good reasons: to maximize results, prevent injuries, and avoid over-training (which has detrimental health effects of its own). In this post I’m going to share my top 4 recovery methods and how they can improve both your performance and results: getting adjusted, myofascial work, rest days, and diversifying your routine. My hope is that you can begin implementing these simple methods and get even more out of your training.
The primary goal of the chiropractic adjustment is to optimize nervous system function and improve spinal biomechanics. (of course these two things go hand in hand, more on that in a bit). Making sure your body is communicating with the environment and moving properly will serve to not only increase your performance but also prevent injuries. With that said, it’s important to know you absolutely shouldn’t wait until you get injured to get adjusted. While chiropractic care is a great conservative option for injury recovery, you can most definitely benefit from receiving care before you have any problems. As a matter of fact, many professional athletes depend on chiropractic care to keep them well and increase their performance. All NFL teams have chiropractors on staff, and many Olympians and PGA golfers have been known travel with their chiropractors to keep their bodies tuned up. We know that driving without making sure it’s properly tuned up with tires balanced and rotated leads to poor performance as well as abnormal wear and tear. Our bodies are much more precious and irreplaceable. Why would you want to put consistent wear on your body and never get a tune up?
Muscle work and adjustments don’t take the place of one another, rather they are extremely complimentary. While chiropractic focuses on neurospinal function, myofascial work focuses on enhancing blood/lymph flow and breaking up adhesions. Adhesions are essentially areas where the fascia that wraps all your tissues have gotten “sticky” due to under use, injury, and more. Working those tissues helps to break up adhesions which stimulates blood flow and gets the kinetic chains of the body working more efficiently. Kinetic chains are basically groups of muscles that work together to produce certain movement patterns. If certain muscle groups within the chain aren’t working as well, other areas have to compensate. This can lead to inefficiency, decreased performance, and the possibility of injury.
There are a few ways to incorporate myofascial work and my favorite approach is to have a healthy mix of all of them. They include professional massage, stretching, and foam rolling. If you have questions about any of these please contact and I can lead you in the right direction!
Take Rest Days
I’m not a fan of the person that coined the phrase “no days off”. Having that mantra is a sure fire way to burn out and potentially injury yourself so, no. As you pushing your body to the limit understand your physiology needs time to recover in order to rebuild those muscles and heal between those challenges. Over training is not only damaging to your structure, it can also set the stage for adrenal fatigue and an over- worked nervous system. An over worked adrenal system disrupts our bodies natural hormone feedback loops that are responsible for a number of things including our energy levels, immune response, metabolism, and for women our cycles. Taking time off to recover doesn’t make you lazy and is not something you should ever feel guilty about! Recovery days will actually help you get the most out of your workouts and help you continue enjoying your activities for the long haul.
The intensity of your workout will determine the appropriate amount of rest you need. For example if you are lifting heavy with the goal of hypertrophy, you would need to rest at least 1-2 days after to allow the muscle tissue that has been damaged to repair itself. If you are not working out that intensely rest is still important, but you may be more focused on resting between sets and/or mixing up your activities. (More on that next, so keep reading!)
Diversify your routine
We all have our favorite activities and I understand it can be hard to veer away from those! Despite that fact, adding a little diversity to your training regimen has similar benefits as those recovery days we just talked about. For example if you love lifting or running, adding a yoga practice (or a least a solid stretching routine) will go a long way. When you are constantly contracting and challenging your muscles deep stretching balances things out by lengthening them. In addition to that, adding these types of activities will help increase flexibility, mobility, blood flow to recovering muscles, and decrease the formation of adhesions we talked about earlier. Conversely, it’s helpful for the Yogi’s out there to incorporate some weight training to maintain strength and stability that will protect your joints (especially those poses that push your flexibility to the limit).
Although hard work and dedication are necessary to reach our fitness goals and make healthy changes, having a “no pain, no gain” attitude along with that is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your over all health. A well rounded and truly holistic approach to getting and staying fit is incomplete without appropriate rest and knowing when to ease up.