June 21 marks the first day of summer, which means off-season training should be in full effect. Whether you're grinding it out in the weight room or performing speed work on the field, your hard work may result in lactic acid build-up, joint stiffness and even aches and pains.
Speaking of "lactic acid," you're undoubtedly familiar with the burning sensation it causes when you continually work your muscles intensely. And let's face it, when your joints are stiff and your muscles ache, it's a challenge to train efficiently.
By learning how to recover effectively, you'll be able to train harder with quality effort to achieve your strength and athletic goals. Try these two post-workout recovery strategies: a contrast shower and icing.
A type of hydrotherapy, a contrast shower alternates hot and cold water, which stimulates the nervous system and changes body temperature to flush out toxins and metabolic waste from the body.
- Stand or sit in shower
- Apply hot water for one minute
- Apply cold water for one minute
- Repeat three times for a total of six minutes
Icing is beneficial when ligaments, tendons and muscles are damaged by overuse. When the body suffers trauma, blood rushes to the area, making the vessels expand and causing inflammation. Placing ice on the area constricts the blood vessels to decrease the swelling, plus the coldness numbs pain signals to the brain.
- Place an ice bag or wrap on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour
- Continue icing for 48 hours or until inflammation or pain subsides
Maximize the benefits by icing 15 to 20 minutes at a time, up to five times a day, and wait 45 minutes between applications. Be sure not to ice too long—red skin means you could develop frostbite. Also, don't ice before a workout, because since it blocks pain signals to the brain, you won't realize when you've hit your pain threshold. If your pain continues to worsen over time, seek professional medical attention.
A bag of ice wrapped in a towel or a bag of frozen peas can get the job done. But, keeping it stable and in place can be tricky. One solution: Moji One [$100, gomoji.com], a wrap made of stretchy fabric that fits securely around joints and muscles. Moji One [pictured below] can be used to apply either heat or cold to the shoulder, hip, groin, hamstring, quad, knee, shin, calf, ankle or foot.
Sources: livestrong.com, runnersworld.com, orthoinfo.aaos.org
Photos: Sarah Gearhart
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock