Training hard is a big part of reaching your athletic performance goals, whether you want to run faster, lift heavier, or simply have more energy throughout the day. But what you may not realize is that recovery is just as important as intense training. In fact, top athletes like Lebron James and Roger Federer dedicate an average of 12 hours per day to sleep, while others, like Cristiano Ronaldo, extol the benefits of cryotherapy in their recovery routines.
So what are the best ways to recover to improve your athletic performance? Here’s what to know.
Benefits of recovery
It may feel counterintuitive, but prioritizing rest and recovery is crucial to performing at a high level. When you exercise, your body depletes its glycogen stores and your muscle tissue breaks down. During recovery, your muscle tissues repair, rebuild, and strengthen. Similarly, your glycogen stores can replenish, allowing you to come back stronger during your next workout.
Sure, it’s tempting to train intensely on a daily basis, especially if you’re working towards a specific goal. However, overtraining can put you at risk for burnout and injury. Therefore, aim to rest the muscles that you worked for 48 to 72 hours before targeting them again.
Best ways to recover
Ready to create your recovery routine? Here are a few of the best recovery practices to get you started.
Yes, it’s really that simple. Sleep is essential to helping your body recover, and studies have shown that sleep deprivation might hurt muscle recovery by impeding the body’s inflammation reaction and muscle growth. Sleep deprivation can also put you at risk for skeletomuscular injury.
To prioritize sleep in your recovery routine, create a soothing sleep environment in your bedroom by dimming the lights, lowering the temperature, and unplugging from technology. Build a relaxing sleep routine to help your brain wind down; this might include reading, meditating, or light stretching. Aim to get 7-9 hours of deep, restorative sleep each night.
Unlike a traditional sauna, which heats the air around you, infrared saunas use infrared lamps and electromagnetic radiation to heat your body directly. The benefits of infrared saunas are that they can operate at a lower temperature (typically between 120˚F and 140˚F), allowing you to stay in the sauna longer and reap more benefits.
Infrared saunas can be used as a recovery aid to promote better sleep, ease muscle soreness, relieve joint pain, improve circulation, improve athletic performance, and aid in relaxation. However higher temperature traditional saunas have many benefits, they act as additional stress.. Higher temperature traditional sauna sessions induce additional stress that may be beneficial to achieve performance benefits, but could be detrimental to short term recovery. If you’re new to infrared saunas, start small with a 10 to 15 minute session a few times a week. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your session to prevent dehydration.
On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum is cold therapy for recovery. Cold therapy, like cryotherapy or ice baths, is effective for recovery because the cold temperatures reduce inflammation and speed up recovery time.
At home, you can easily try cold therapy by making a DIY ice bath in your tub or turning the temperature down for the last minutes of your morning shower (bonus: you’ll be instantly awake and energized).Or, try cryotherapy. With this recovery practice, you spend a few minutes in a cryogenic chamber that lowers the temperature to -160 degrees Fahrenheit.
While these recovery practices are generally recommended, the best recovery for you depends on your specific health and fitness goals. For example, cold therapy may not be recommended for individuals with cardiac issues or athletes looking to maximize gains in strength or endurance in a building phase. Your precision care doctor can help you assess your performance goals and create a recovery strategy that fits your health needs and lifestyle. Click here to learn more about how precision medicine can help guide your recovery.