How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery

According to new research into recovery methods, sitting in a chair for 15 minutes is better than an active recovery protocol! 

I’ll touch more into that research later, but it gets you thinking that maybe recovery doesn’t have to be so complex.  There is an endless list of recovery methods such as:

  • Cryotherapy

  • Massage

  • Active Recovery

  • Electrical Stimulation

  • Compression

  • Ice Baths

  • Hydrotherapy

  • Foam Rolling

  • Stretching

  • Lymphatic drainage

  • Contrast Water Therapy

  • Altitude Chambers

  • Nutritional Timing

How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery

New forms of recovery methods come out every year, all claiming to be the new must-have fix to get people back training quicker.

See below the cryo chambers, the latest and greatest offering in recovery.  

How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery

When people ask me about recovery methods, I say whatever makes you feel better physically and psychologically while being practical.  Again, as with everything, people want a definitive answer on what the best possible method of recovery is, but unfortunately, the research is so unclear that I can’t offer a black a white answer. 

I’ll describe a method I use when I have a particularly hard training session or competition.

Immediately after the hard session, I replenish any of the fuel I burned off (carbs and  fats) along with trying to enhance muscle tissue repair through sensible nutrition (protein intake) and hydration.  That's it within the first 24 hours. 

How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery

At 24 hours after cessation of the exercise I’ll do a light active recovery option (in the first paragraph above, the active recovery is immediately after exercise and is a running protocol), which for me includes a light cycle at 30% of max heart rate for about 15-30 minutes.

How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery

I keep it that simple. Nothing fancy and nothing complicated.

While the above is the most practical, these are the other options I would ideally use if I had access:

  • Cold Water Therapy

  • Hydrotherapy

  • Compression

  • Electric Stimulation

  • Lymphatic drainage massage

You have to be realistic. 

Are you going to wait 15 minutes to run a hot and cold bath, do you even have 2 baths that you can get the correct temperature? Do you have access to a pool, a massage therapist or electrical stimulation devices? 

Unless you’re a professional athlete or have a very swanky gym I guess you’ll be like me. Do what is most practicle.

Stretching as a form of recovery?

You may have noticed that I don’t use stretching as a recovery method.  While there are many reasons to stretch, for me I don’t like the idea of doing a structured 15 minutes of stretching after a hard workout. 

The research study by Lund Vestergaard-Poulsen specifically suggests that stretching might actually delay recovery. 

I believe that to get the full benefits of a stretching protocol, stretching should be done in a relaxed state (parasympathetic). But after a workout, I’m still fired up for at least 3-4 hours. Even after 24 hours, I won’t stretch as a “recovery” method.  

Having said that, stretching does seem suitable in some situations. If I was to do a hard workout or competition, then have to travel in a car for an hour+ after, then stretching might be a nice idea when I get to the other end to loosen up stiff muscles

My advice is to keep your recovery as simple as possible. Use a method that can be repeated on a regular basis that you feel comfortable with.

Here are some recovery research articles worth reading. If you want them just shoot me an email. 

  1. The effect of passive stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness, and other detrimental effects following eccentric exercise.

  2. Effects of water immersion methods on postexercise recovery of physical and mental performance

  3. Recovery in soccer

  4. The effects of contrast bathing and compression therapy on muscular performance