How to Decrease Recovery Time
In Rio, Michael Phelps made headlines for something other than his physical ability. After he was spotted with mysterious circular bruises on his back and shoulders, fans questioned the origin of the marks. The answer was surprising: cupping. This ancient technique claims to provide athletes with a shorter recovery time by using suction to bring blood closer to the surface to ease soreness. However, this results in bruises caused by the breaking of blood capillaries near the surface of the skin.
The technique that became an internet obsession reminds us how important the recovery process can be for top athletes and fitness newbies alike. Here are a few at-home recovery techniques that may get you ready for your next workout:
While slipping into a chilly tub of ice may be uncomfortable, science backs the effectiveness of this recovery technique. Taking the same concept of icing injuries and bruises to reduce swelling and pain, ice baths translate to a larger scale by soaking in a bathtub filled with cold water and ice. The ice bath constricts blood vessels, flushes waste and reduces tissue breakdown. This technique is easy to complete: simply soak in an ice water bath for 6-8 minutes. If you're new to ice baths, be sure to listen to your body and stop the process if you're feeling too much discomfort.
Isometrics, a method of controlled, gentle stretching, is an easy way to reduce soreness occurring after a workout. Stretching before and after workouts, or incorporating isometrics into rest day plans, gives muscles a chance to gradually relax. This can decrease or completely eliminate soreness and can increase range of motion.
To perform an isometric exercise, hold a stretch for a longer period of time (about five seconds) keeping your muscles engaged. Finish by focusing on relaxing each muscle as you leave the stretch. This increased blood flow to your muscles allows nutrients to rebuild and replenish sore muscles.
With one piece of equipment, users can successfully mimic the effects of a massage by performing self-myofascial release (SMR). After working out, the fibrous layer of connective tissue surrounding muscles can become cross-linked and bind to nerves or the muscles themselves, limiting motion and causing pain. By performing an SMR with a foam roller, users can break up scar tissue, relieving stiffness and soreness, and improve blood circulation. To practice this technique, follow this instructional video from Livestrong to learn proper form and positioning.
When it comes to a successful fitness regime, your recovery process is just as essential as the workout itself.