Recovery is an essential component of any training program. Athletes of all levels need to make proper recovery part of their everyday lives to ensure they are getting the most out of their training and they are reaping the benefits of their hard work.
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Recovery can look different to everyone. For some, it is daily stretches and weekly yoga sessions, or fueling and refueling their bodies with essential nutrients. For others, it is getting eight hours of sleep each night. Great athletes incorporate recovery strategies into each and every day. This is what separates them from good athletes—prioritizing recovery.
Stretching helps alleviate muscle soreness, increase blood flow to muscles for repair, and increase range of motion and flexibility. Going to a daily yoga class may not be realistic and that's OK!
Here are five stretches any athlete can use to recover.
- Step forward with your right foot into a lunge position and drop your back knee down toward the ground.
- Ensure your hips are square in front of you and you are driving the weight through your front heel.
- Raise your opposite arm and reach up and back for a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 15 seconds, release, then try to sit a bit deeper for 15-20 seconds longer.
- Repeat on opposite side.
- Extended stretch: Move the front foot out to the side slightly and drop the knee out, coming to the outside edge of your front foot.
- Work your hands or forearms down to the ground and hold for 15-20 seconds.
- Set up in a high plank position and raise your hips up toward the ceiling (Downward Dog).
- Extend your right leg up and swipe through so it lays perpendicular to the opposite leg underneath your core region.
- Try to relax your upper body by extending your arms out in front of you or resting your forehead on your forearms.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
- From a kneeling position, sit tall with your hips forward.
- Extend your right leg out to the side and place the sole of your foot on the ground.
- Bring your hands down to the floor in front of you and slowly sit your hips back on your opposite heel while extending your arms in front.
- Press gently back, keeping the sole of your foot on the ground.
- Hold for 15 seconds, release then sit deeper for 15-20 seconds longer.
- Repeat on opposite side.
- From a kneeling position, spread your knees wide and point your feet out.
- Slowly bring yourself down to the floor, either forearms down or arms all the way extended.
- Breathe deeply through this position and keep your knees spread wide.
- Hold for 60 seconds.
Child's Pose to Cobra
- Start in a position similar to the Frog stretch but keep your feet directly underneath you (and not outward).
- Extend your arms forward as you press your hips back, then slowly shift the weight forward into your palms.
- Pressing your palms and hips through the ground, bring your chest up tall and roll your shoulders back.
- Breathe through this sequence, pausing for one breath at each position.
- Repeat five times.
One of the most important cues to keep in mind while performing these stretches is to breathe—long deep inhales followed by long deep exhales. Instead of counting the seconds, count your breaths, aiming for 5 to 10 deep breaths in each position.
These stretches can be done on any recovery day and/or at the end of a training session. Not only will they help promote recovery, they will also help bring your body back to a resting state after an intense workout.