The Perfect Workout Recovery Day

A closer look at some protocols that will not only ensure that you keep your post-workout aches and pains to a minimum while also allowing your body to gain better fitness and strength from that killer workout that landed you in this hot and sweaty mess.

Brock Armstrong
9-minute read
Episode #404
Photo of a woman laying in bed in workout clothes

Other Recovery Tips

Here are some other quick and dirty workout recovery tips that you can also try. 

4. Wear Compression Garments

Check out the article called "The Best Way to Use Compression Gear" for some extra info on this but a recent meta-analysis called Compression Garments and Recovery from Exercise looked at all of the available research and concluded that compression garments can indeed enhance muscle recovery after strength training and also improve next-day cycling performance.

5. Lotions, Creams, and Salves

There are several sticky, slippery, and gooey compounds that you can rub on a sore muscle to alleviate the soreness and help improve recovery. Most of these goops work by creating a pain-relieving and cooling sensation, which can increase blood flow, or even displace elevated levels of by-products like calcium.

6. Reduce Your Stress

Researchers at the Yale Stress Center recently published a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that confirms that "mental stress" impairs workout recovery. Thirty-one undergrads were assessed for stress levels using a bunch of psychological tests, then engaged in a heavy lower body strength workout. An hour after the workout the students in the high-stress group had regained 38 percent of their leg strength, while students in the low-stress group had regained 60 percent of their strength. That’s nearly double the recovery!

Yes, I know that some stress is unavoidable in this modern world but many of us seem to create or seek out additional stress in our lives. We also fail to do enough to counter or manage it through things like mindfulness practice, breathing, yoga or simply unplugging occasionally.

7. Get Some Sleep

Carrying a sleep debt can impair exercise recovery by increasing cortisol, lowering testosterone, and lowering muscle protein synthesis. It can also impair recovery by disrupting slow wave sleep, the stage of sleep which shows a peak in growth hormone secretion. Growth hormone is know to heal tissues and rebuild muscles. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to muscular atrophy and reduces muscle strength.

8. Avoid Alcohol

That post workout or race beer directly impairs muscle protein synthesis which is an essential step in recovery and adaptation to training. Even a single day per week of binge drinking is linked to 4x the risk of sarcopenia (muscle-wasting). I probably don’t need to tell you that it is hard to recover from your workouts if your muscles are atrophying.

9. Get a Massage

Not only does a massage feel great but evidence shows that it is absolutely awesome for recovery from exercise. The only reason I don’t include it in my own personal “recovery day” workout is that it can be costly. But if you can afford it, your health plan covers it, or you are willing to splurge, it has been shown to alleviate DOMS and speed up the recovery of muscle strength and enhances proprioception. It also has been shown to improve central nervous system parasympathetic/sympathetic balance, and this was true even if it was a massage device (not a human) who was doing the work.

There are of course many more pieces to the recovery puzzle, but I hope this gives you enough information and knowledge so that the next time you have a hard workout or race, you will resist the urge to simply flop on the couch. Instead, I hope you try some active recovery, foam rolling, hot or cold therapy, gooey balm, replenishing carbs, or any number of other options listed in this article. If you do, I guarantee that you will recover faster, better, and be feeling the recovery benefits in no time.

For more rest day info, recovery tips, and to join the fit conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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