Myofascial release or Soft-tissue therapy
This is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat the functions of the body that have been altered or impaired because of intense training. This is done by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation, increasing the flow and drainage of body fluids (venous and lymphatic), and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscles and the muscles connective tissue.
Put simply, this helps your body to heal itself, and it should be a required step in your recovery from workouts. If you have the money to go get a massage therapist or an active release specialist, go for it. But for most of us, it’s off to the land of foam-rolling and lacrosse balls. There are many benefits associated with soft-tissue work: Improved mobility and range of motion, reduction of inflammation, quicker recovery, and many more.
As you practice soft-tissue therapy and foam rolling, know that there is no ONE way to do it. Everyone is going to have slightly different tender spots, different areas of muscle tension, scar tissue, adhesions, and more. You will also have to learn what works for you. You don’t want the rolling to be so light you can’t feel it, but you also want to use enough pressure to get the job done. Think of the pain scale…most experts would recommend you never go above a 6 or a 7. Generally roll for 15-45 seconds on each leg (or side or foot, etc…)
A few extra guidelines:
It is CRITICAL to drink water after a foam rolling session as your body drains fluids, and these fluids need replaced
Keep your core tight during foam rolling. This will help to eliminate strain on the lower back during rolling.
Don’t grunt and have a “pain-face” during foam rolling. Despite any tenderness or mild pain from the rolling, make sure you continue normal breathing and keep your face and neck in an unstrained position.
Foam rolling is not for recent injuries, it is for regular soreness associated with training. Do not use foam rolling for chronic injuries, do not use it on your joints, and do not use it on recent injuries.
What you will need:
Foam roller ($25-$50 dollars)
Lacrosse ball (less than $5)
Tennis ball (less than $3)
Alternatives & Optional toys:
The Stick or The Wand – These are tools with two handles that allow you to apply pressure with your arms to areas where it is more difficult on a roller
Medicine ball – A medicine ball also works well if it is a solid ball.
Cold water therapy
As miserable as it may sound, it works. It is as simple as it sounds. Fill up a tub with COLD water (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 12-15 degrees Celsius) and get in. Why on earth would you do this? When you train hard, there are small tears in your muscle fibers….the ice bath starts the healing process. A quick note on the science: It is thought that the cold water constricts the blood vessels and flushes out waste products like lactic acid, along with decreasing inflammation. Then when the muscles heat back up, there is increased circulation which also helps in the healing process.
Scientific research and recommendations for the exact time to be in the water, and the temperature of the water varies. A good bet would be to spend 10-15 minutes in 55 degree water.
I cannot promote sleep enough. An athlete in training must get more than 7 hours of sleep per night at a minimum. This is CRITICAL for recovery. Sleep should ideally be in your own bed, by yourself, in a dark and quiet environment.
Here are some good rules on sleeping:
- Unplug for at least 30 minutes before bed. This means no computers, iphones, ipods, blackberries, or video games. Read a book, have a relaxing conversation, stretch, or do anything else calming and relaxing.
- Try not to eat too much before bedtime. You don’t want to go to bed full and you don’t want to go to bed hungry. Both can have negative effects on sleep
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day if possible. This is the way our bodies are programmed to work, and when we deviate from this it can have negative effects.
- Sleep in a dark and quiet environment.
- Try to not get into your bed before you are ready to sleep. So if you are reading before bed, do it in another room, in a chair, or sit on the floor.
- Go to the bathroom before you go to bed – common sense!
Compression gear uses power Lycra to compress around the muscles in an effort to reduce vibration and oscillation of the muscles during training. Compression gear can include shorts, tights, short and long sleeve shirts, socks, and arm sleeves. The scientific study results are still mixed here, but again…at the WOH we have personally and had athletes both experience reduced soreness in the days after training when using compression gear. These can often be pricey and aren’t a requirement for training, but we have seen some benefits.
Stretching is actually a hotly debated topic. Some people say it helps some say it hurts. We at Kettlebell Workout Spot believe it is a crucial step in recovery. If you have read any of our training guides you know we have a specific stretching routine that we recommend at the end of all of our workouts.
Recommended post-workout stretch
Child’s pose (3 x 15 sec holds, 5 sec rest)
Pigeon pose (3 x 15 sec holds, 5 sec rest)
Knee lunge (2 x 10 sec holds, alternate legs)
Knee split (2 x 10 sec holds, alternate legs)
Tricep + shoulder stretch (1×15 sec holds, alternate arms)
Calf stretch (2 x 10 sec holds, alternate legs)
Sleeper stretch (2 x 10 sec holds, 5 sec rest, alternate arms)
Hamstring bent-knee breathe/stretch (3 holds for 5 sec each leg)
Hamstring leg raise (2 x 10 sec holds, 5 sec rest, alternate legs)
Kossack stretch (2 x 10 sec holds, 5 sec rest, alternate legs)
Lying quad stretch (2 x 10 sec holds, 5 sec rest, alternate legs)
Back of the couch stretch (ext/int)
- 2×10 sec hold each leg, each stretch (ext/int)
Rest days don’t mean sit around and do nothing at all. Often times, if you do nothing at all on your off-day, you will feel slow and lethargic when you get back to training the next day. Active rest will have you fresh and ready to go when you get back at it. There are numerous studies that cite benefits of active rest (reduced blood lactate levels, psychological benefits. This really is a nice easy workout. It should be around 50-60% effort and your heart rate should STAY BELOW 65% of your maximum heart rate. Everything should be done at a conversational pace. Add in some stretching, some soft-tissue work, and maybe even a cold water bath and you’ve got yourself a recovery workout.