Making Life Healthy : 7 Steps for Active Recovery

Most people -- myself included -- focus primarily on the workout and only a smidgen on the recovery.  The past few years, I've felt older. My body feels tired.  When I hit 25, there was a noticeable difference in my fitness recovery time.  I needed more sleep and stepped up my yoga practice.  Then I hit 30. I signed up for an Ironman. I ran a few road races. Emotionally, my 30's have been the best years.  I am comfortable in my skin, I embrace my strengths rather than dwell on my weaknesses and I feel responsible. But physically, it's challenging. More sleep, better hydration, healthier foods and substantially more time dedicated to wellness.

I jokingly said the other day "I feel as if I have a wellness team" but after giving it some thought, I found it to be quite accurate.  When boiled down, most of that informal "team" is made up of experts who work in an area of fitness or wellness.  But to bring it full circle, part of it is accepting that I need to take greater care of my body (and mind) as I age and the other is the willingness to do it. Today, I'm sharing the 7 steps that I take to recover from a workout.

[photo via Death to the Stock Photo]

[photo via Death to the Stock Photo]

1. Slow Your Yoga
I added restorative and Yin yoga to my practice, both of which are great for getting deep into the connective tissue. Along with Ashtanga, these are great practices to focus on your breathing, which gets the blood moving in your body and helps with the recovery of sore muscles. 

2. Physical Therapy
Find a good physical therapist in your area -- ask your friends or running partners for recommendations.  During Ironman training, especially after 100-mile bike rides or 17 mile runs, I would visit our physical therapist for graston technique treatment, IT band release or deep tissue sports massage. This was a key component in my training and helped a sore knee, tight IT band and painful foot. These days it helps with a pelvic tilt and alignment. 

3. Foam Roller
It hurts, but it helps. Rolling your quads, glutes and hamstrings on a foam cylinder helps reduce muscle inflammation and repairs cells (here or here) Another option is The Stick. 

4. Massage + Muscle Activation Technique
Massage has long been a part of recovery, but I recently discovered Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) and I've seen incredible, immediate and long-lasting, results.  The specialist uses her hands, similar to a massage, to maximize muscle contraction and increase range of motion. Whichever you prefer, they are both wildly beneficial and an important part of recovery. I recommend once every two weeks -- which sounds like a luxury, but if you're working out on the regular, your body needs it. 

5. Resistance Training
As women (and men) get older, we lose bone density. By adding resistance and strength training to our fitness routine, we can stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss. My favorite is Pilates, hands down. It helps strengthen, lengthen and tone my muscles and the movements are so small and refined, that it works the smaller muscles usually overlooked in resistance training. Pulling resistance bands is another option that stretches and strengthens knee and shoulder joints.  They don't take up a lot of space and are easy to store (and great for travel.)

6. Pack A Snack
Immediately post-workout, eat a mini-snack of complex carbs (for energy), lean protein (to repair and grow muscles), and good fats (to feel full). Go for a glass of low-fat chocolate milk or a protein shake of Greek yogurt, protein powder, and berries. 

7. Eat + Drink
Have a balanced meal. Think grilled chicken or salmon with asparagus and quinoa or a stir-fry with protein, vegetables, and rice.  Stay hydrated throughout the day, as water helps to remove the toxins our muscles expel post work out.

My favorite of all: SLEEP! It's the time when you're body repairs damaged cells and heals your body.  Anything I left out or tips you've learned along the way?