I’ve noticed that when most guys talk about training they hardly ever mention anything about recovery. Guys are more than eager to share with you the latest and greatest training routine they are doing or the new fad diet they are on, but seldom do they mention what (if anything) they are doing to improve their recovery or restoration.
Here at Well Built Style we encourage guys to train like beasts in the gym because we recognize that in order to make significant progress you need to work hard. However, we also understand the importance of recovery and the impact it has on your progress.
With that in mind, in this article we want to discuss three effective ways to improve your recovery between workouts so you can continue to train hard in the gym and make the progress you want. As a bonus, not only are these methods proven to be effective, but they are also light on your wallet.
1. Epsom Salt Baths
If you think a nice, relaxing bubble bath is something only your girlfriend or wife does to unwind from a busy day you would be mistaken. Epsom salt baths are also a great way for athletes improve recovery. Epsom salts (also known as magnesium sulphate) have been around for hundreds of years and were first extracted from the sea water in a British town called Epsom (duh) back in the 17th century. Since then people have used these salts to relieve stress, improve circulation, reduce swelling, and improve mood.
During bouts of intense exercise your body becomes depleted of magnesium, which is an important mineral involved in various chemical reactions in the body including energy production. Studies have shown that a diet low in magnesium impairs athletic performance. One way to replenish your body’s store of magnesium is to take an Epsom salt bath which is rich in magnesium. In fact, a recent study found that just 600 grams of Epsom salts dissolved in a normal size bath can significantly increase mean blood magnesium levels. You can take an Epsom salt bath 2-3x per week for 10-20 minutes at a time or whenever you feel like you need it depending on how beat up you feel. A 20lb bag of Epsom salts will cost around $30.
It’s unfortunate that a lot of men shy away from yoga because it is an excellent way to improve recovery. For those of you who don’t know, yoga originated in ancient India and is a collection of physical, mental, and spiritual practices used to attain a permanent state of peace. Although there are many different types of yoga, the one most familiar to people in the West is Hatha Yoga – which is a system of physical postures or asanas used to purify the body.
Yoga works by improving the body’s circulation. Most vigorous sports activities generate a lot of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. If this lactic acid is not removed after a workout it can impair future athletic performance. This is why you see a lot of NHL hockey players riding the stationary bike AFTER a grueling hockey game. They are trying to flush the lactic acid out of their legs. Yoga exercises can also help in the removal of lactic acid by flushing the muscles with oxygenated blood through the various stretches and postures. Not only that, but the deep belly breathing involved in yoga also soothes the mind and reduces stress. Personally, I do a light, 15-20 minute yoga session before going to sleep at least 5x per week and it’s made a huge difference in my recovery ability. Fortunately, there are a lot of excellent free resources available on Youtube.
3. Contrast Water Therapy
For those of you who really want to get serious about your recovery I recommend that you try contrast water therapy. This is a form of therapy where the entire body is immersed in ice water followed by the immediate immersion of the body in warm water. Sounds like torture, doesn’t it? This type of therapy has been around for a long time but has recently become popular among athletes as a way to improve recovery between grueling workouts.
The way in which contrast water therapy works is through its ability to increase the body’s circulation of blood and lymph fluid. When you immerse yourself in cold water this causes the vasoconstriction of your blood and lymph vessels. By then immediately immersing yourself in warm water you cause the vasodilation of your body’s blood and lymph vessels. These two actions work back and forth as you switch from cold water to warm water, causing the body to pump or circulate stagnant blood and lymph around the body in order remove waste products. The only drawback to this particular method is that most people do not have a tub large enough to take an ice bath in. Fortunately, you can derive some of the same benefits by taking contrast showers. I recommend starting off with a 10 minute shower where you alternate between hot and cold for 1 minute at a time. Just make sure you always end off with cold!
So the next time you’re feeling a bit run down from the weight room, give one of these recovery methods a try. You’ll find that they are an effective (and inexpensive) way to boost your recovery and enhance your progress in the gym.