Post-exercise recovery science tells us that much more goes into the creation of muscle fatigue than meets the eye. Complicated biological systems co-mingle to birth “Maybe I’m too old for this” trains of thought and make pinpointing the cause of our sore muscles impossible. But, thankfully, scientists can point us to a few action steps to make the morning surprise of tight, tired things much less common.
- 1. Increase your VO2 Max. Wait. What? How do you just do that? When I think of VO2 max, images of Lance Armstrong turning in freakishly high numbers while spinning in a laboratory chamber come to mind. Not exactly helpful. However, the reality is that we all have a VO2 max – an amount of oxygen we take in during exercise – and it can increase with specific types of training. Research has shown that athletes with a higher VO2 max recover more quickly between bouts of vigorous exercise. So, how do you improve your VO2 max? High-intensity interval training. (I know, I know, if you had a dollar for every time this was the answer to your training woes…) Recent studies have shown that 6-12 interval bouts of 2 minutes each is enough to increase VO2 max. So, the real action step for improved recovery is simply this: add at least one interval workout to your weekly training schedule.
- Remember that rest and recovery are not the same. When we are moving, blood flows to the muscles and promotes the resynthesis of substances, such as C-reactive proteins and glycogen stores, to help tissues return to their normal state. Blood flow also facilitates the removal of protons. This is why there is ample research to support active recovery. Light intensity exercise (less than 50% of maximal heart rate) between interval bouts, following workouts or the day(s) after races can speed the rate of muscle healing. Most athletes overdo active recovery, so monitor your heart rate and make your recovery sessions uncomfortably easy!
- Find a good massage therapist. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the technical name for those 200 pound legs, and one of the best prevention strategies for DOMS is traditional massage therapy. A 20-30 minute massage immediately following or up to 2 hours after a workout has been shown to decrease DOMS for up to 3 days after exercise. It also provides many other post-exercise benefits, such as a reduction in perceived fatigue, cortisol levels and creatine kinase concentrations. Many athletes utilize massage as a tool for recovery from injury, but science tells us it is one of the most effective ways to recover from exercise. Find a massage therapist who is willing to listen to you, adjust pressure based on your feedback, and work with your training schedule.
Have an ache or pain that’s keeping you from training the way you want? Outpatient PT offers free consults with Board Certified Physical Therapists at every location: Covington, Maple Valley Kent, Renton, Auburn and Puyallup. Need a good massage therapist? Schedule one for right after a long workout at any Outpatient PT clinic! www.outpatientpt.com.