Whether you're injured or just feeling the effects of a brutally tough workout, recovery is everything. The techniques you use in your recovery routine determine how quickly and thoroughly you get back into playing shape, or return your body to full capacity after getting beat up.
Every recovery plan should be multi-faceted, including basic elements that can be modified depending on your injury, your body and your sport.
All the methods below are good general methods for both recovery and rehabilitation.
1. Contrasting Methods
Some athletes prefer fire. Others prefer ice. Every athlete should incorporate both into their recovery routines.
For example, if you are using a Jacuzzi, you should complement it with a cold temperature bath.
According to Dr. Mel Siff, author of Supertraining, the trick to using contrasting methods is to work each one for one to five minutes at a time. He suggests varying the duration because it helps your body adapt to different situations. You then repeat the process three or four times.
Stretching is an important part of athletic training and workout recovery. It should also be an important part of injury recovery.
Stretching helps you continue to improve your flexibility. It also relaxes you, which makes the recovery phase easier to bear. Finally, it actually helps your muscles recover from injury.
Full-body stretching is good for overall wellbeing and to keep your body moving. However, when it's time to stretch an injured area, proceed with caution.
For example, when you stretch an injured hand, wrist or forearm, do so only until you begin to feel tension. This prevents you from overstretching and causing more damage to the injured area.
When it's done correctly, massage is another important part of recovery. It can be especially useful when dealing with back injuries, including lower back pain—which can reach 40% in some groups.
But don't just go out and get a massage. Back pain is often a symptom as much as it is an injury, so make sure to have a clinical or diagnostic examination first. A massage that does not take other possible injuries or issues into account can do more harm than good.
Rest is one of the hardest parts of recovering. Competitive athletes in particular are great at sports but not great at resting. Limiting your activity is often hard psychologically. But rest is important because it prevents you from doing more damage by training on an injury.
Sleep is critical. While you are asleep, hopefully on a good quality mattress, your body is working to repair and rebuild your muscle mass.
Getting plenty of rest is essential for even elite athletes. Tom Brady goes to bed at 8:30 p.m. every night to make sure he has enough quality sleep to get through his training.
Swimming is a good strategy for back rehabilitation in particular. Because it's low impact, it keeps your body active without doing any damage. It is a good way to stretch and explore new ranges of motion for both your back and the rest of your body.
Stretching in the water is different from stretching on a mat. The water provides a small amount of resistance, so it allows you to rebuild strength while you stretch.
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