A lot of us think exercise recovery is stretching - but there's so much more you can do to help prepare your body to work again and recover from today's exertion in the best way possible. Here's a few of my favourite things to do - I don't do all of them all of the time but pick and choose a mixture based on what type and intensity of exercise I have done. You get a sense for what your body needs, so learn to listen to it.
As I mentioned above, recovery is not just about stretching, but it is an important part. Current research suggests that static stretches (stretches you hold still for a length of time) are the best type of stretch to do after exercise, holding each stretch for a minimum of 20-30secs and repeating 4-6 times. Different forms of exercise will use different muscle groups and there are hundreds of stretches that you can do so I have chosen a few of my favourite full body stretches below.
Pose of a child - Knees can be together or wide apart (feet together) if you want a deeper stretch through the hips. Reach the fingers away and tuck your tail bone under to stretch the back, through the armpits and sides.
Bridge - great stretch for the front of the body, in particular the hips. If you want a deeper stretch push your hands and forearms into the floor, reaching towards the heels, for a deeper lift. Alternatively you can place a block under your bottom to hold you up and let you relax into the stretch.
Cat/cow - great for mobilising and stretching through the entire spine. From all fours, arch the back, tuck the chin into the chest and the tail bone under (cat). Then reverse this (cow) by lifting the chest, looking forward and sticking the tail bone out for a lovely stretch for the front of the body.
Massage has a number of benefits post exercise - the increased blood flow can help to reduce inflammation reducing muscle soreness and relieve any muscle tension making for a faster recovery. Some recent research has also shown that massage after exercise may benefit muscle strength and proprioception, which is great news for injury prevention in future workouts.
You can self massage specific areas or lots of us now are foam roller fans. If you are feeling like treating yourself, a professional sports massage is well worth it!
** Special offer for April 2017 - 10% discount on post-race sports massage for anyone taking part in the Brighton or London Marathons **
Supplements and other goodies
There's a huge range of products on the market - these are some of my favourites and what I personally use.
An Epsom salt bath after a hard workout is AMAZING for tired, achey muscles.
The Magnesium water and/or the electrolyte fix can be used during or after your workout.
The Cherry Active can again be drunk during or after a workout and its high levels of anti-oxidants combat muscle soreness.
The mind is a massive player in our relationship with exercise. One little tip I use, particularly if I have had a bad session, is to get back out as soon as I can/my body allows and re-set my mind. This goes back to my horse riding days - 'if you fall off, jump straight back on'. It's not realistic to think that every time you exercise you will get better and better, but If for whatever reason you end on a particular low, it can play havoc with your mind which in turn is not great for your body. Even if you do a mini session a few days later to try and end on a more positive note, it will do your overall recovery and performance the world of good.
Rest days are an important part of your training or exercise regime. Your body needs them to recover, don't be tempted to keep going and going thinking it will benefit you. Your body will fatigue far more easily and leave you open to injury.