By Dan Teano
A solid workout plan is meaningless if it doesn’t have a strategy for recovery woven into it. A friend and trainer at my YMCA back home said to me, “If you’re going to train like a college athlete, you can’t recover like a student.”
Whether you’re a college athlete or a student who’s passionate about fitness, it is easy to forget the recovery stage of the workout. Often times, we are so focused on motivating ourselves to get to the gym that we don’t pay attention to what we should do when we get back. And yet, recovery is arguably the most important part of anyone’s workout routine. Without proper rest, nutrition, and rehabilitation, our muscles will be too worn out to endure the stress of the next workout. So if you want to run faster, lift heavier, or jump higher, realize that muscle growth doesn’t come from continually tearing it apart, but rather building it up conscientiously.
With this “recovery-focused” mentality, here are a few things to keep in mind during your next trip to the gym.
- Stimulate, don’t annihilate. Oftentimes we think we have to punish our bodies when we go to the gym. We stack the weights, push through fatigue, and clench our teeth through the pain in hopes of getting stronger. When we workout to destroy our muscles, though, we leave the gym feeling weaker than we did when we entered. Doesn’t it make sense to leave feeling stronger than we’ve ever felt before? Instead of killing yourself for an hour and a half, do as much as you can for 15-30 minutes. While less than a half hour seems like no time spent in the gym at all, realize that it takes less than one minute to complete a set of 10-12 reps. However, most of us are either too busy finding the next song to play or critiquing someone’s squat form to crush our own workout in an efficient manner.
- Warm up (literally). Before you start your workout, take two to five minutes to get your mind and body prepared for high intensity activity. If you haven’t worked out in a while and you’re looking to get your legs warm, I recommend walking on the treadmill on a steep incline for three minutes. Again, three minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but you will feel a burning sensation build up in your calves right away. If, on the other hand, you’re a bit sore from a previous workout, I recommend sitting in the sauna for 10-15 minutes.
Located in both the men’s and women’s locker rooms, the sauna is probably the best way to let your over-worked muscles loosen up tension. If you haven’t used the sauna before, do not immediately set the temperature to the highest setting (194 degrees Fahrenheit); instead, start with 130 degrees Fahrenheit and work your way up. If you’d like more heat, then pour water into the heater and a hot steam will soon fill the sauna room.
Whenever you finish your workout, the recovery plan immediately starts. To be clear, the purpose of proper recovery is to make sure that every time you go the gym, you’re adding to your strength, not taking away from it.
Recovery isn’t rocket science, though. We all know what we should do to repair and recuperate our bodies: sleep enough, eat well, and hydrate often. When we prioritize our recovery, going to the gym begins to feel like self-care as opposed to self-loathing.