Our lifestyles vary greatly. You may be an athlete, make exercise a small but regular part of your routine, or work a sedentary high-stress job and lucky are if you squeeze in a few minutes of workouts weekly. Rest and recovery are not luxurious, they are necessary. Today I will walk you through some of the tools I use on a regular basis.
1. Massage Ahhhh my favorite form of recovery! When I was training 15-20 hours a week, my monthly massage most certainly helped avoid injury. To my great fortune, I found an amazingly skilled massage therapist early on in my racing days (Ric Timbol if you are in the ocean city area!). My sister Jeanenne Browning became certified so when I traveled back to PA she could fix me up. Both naturally skilled healers. I know massage can be expensive but, if you have a trade see if you can barter services. Also, ask around for someone who is practicing from their home which reduces overhead and cost.
2. Yoga/Stretch I started practicing yoga from a DVD in my living room at 22 years old. My thoughts were "this is stupid, I should be sweating and burning calories." I am glad a stuck with it and eventually learned the importance of balance. I eventually found forms of yoga that I could sweat and burn those calories if I really wanted to. No matter what form I practice, I am stretching my muscles and mind. Practicing breathing not only helped my lung capacity for other activities, focusing on it helped me learn to stay in the present moment. After all, that is all we really have because the past is gone and the future is just the next present moment. At the very least, add a few stretches at the end of your day.
3. Epsom Salts Soaking in a hot tub with Epsom salt is an age-old recovery trick. They help to detoxify the body, reduce muscle soreness, pain relief, promote sleep, and soften skin.
4. Essential oils Although I use these in a variety of ways, for the purpose of today's topic, I use them as aromatherapy in a diffuser before bed or added along with my Epsom salts in the bath. Additionally, they can be used topically as long as the quality is food grade for pain and soreness. Some choices include lavender, arnica, eucalyptus, peppermint, and helichrysum.
5. Ice Inflamed areas, bruises, or injuries that are small may call for an ice pack with a 20min on/20min off cycle. If you are doing long runs, bike, or high-intensity exercise may respond best to a soak in an ice bath. Dump ice from your freezer or buy a small bag of ice and fill the tub with cold water and the ice. I used to put on a warm fleece and make a mug of hot tea before sinking my legs into the frigid water. Keeping it real, those ice baths can initially be more painful than the workout but, it does wonders for recovery!
Eating the right nutritious foods around your most active parts of the day is important to replenish energy, muscle growth, and recovery. Generally, that will be within a 30min. window after strenuous activity. This is a great recovery drink.
6. Rolling Using a foam roller to roll out your muscles is similar to self-massage. This is great for those times your body could use a massage but, you don't have the time or money to make it in for one. There is also a self-massage tool called "the stick" with small plastic rollers on it that has worked really well for the quads particularly.
8. Media Fasting Moving onto the mental/emotional/spiritual aspect of rest and recovery. There is no denying that we live in a high tech media inundated world. We need to take a break from t.v., social media, computers, etc. from time to time. They sap valuable time from us that could be better spent on personal growth. Furthermore, social media has been shown to increase depression and anxiety while lowering sleep quality and self-esteem. (Study here.) So give yourself a mental tech break.
9. Gratitude Journal I will dive deeper into this one on the next post but, to get you started on a path to a more positive mindset and attitude, journaling gratitude daily a wonderful place to start. Start small with just three things that you can be grateful for. Make this a habit that you commit to first thing in the morning or right before bed. Gradually add a few more. Try to go a month without listing the same thing twice.
10. Meditation Call it anything you like. Sitting still and thinking of nothing at all, focusing on your breathing, practicing visualization, or quietly waiting to see if you can hear God's voice or a nudge in a certain direction. These are all ways to quiet the mental chatter that flows in our minds and get away from external distractions. It doesn't have to be for very long. Parents of young children often cherish their time in the bathroom with the door closed just to get away. Take what you can get!