By Michael Easter
After an arduous race like the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, the recovery phase is vital. According to Todd Durkin, author of Impact Body Plan, hitting the pavement or gym too soon again can undermine the repair process. Follow his tips below to make the most of your downtime.
Roll with It
Here’s why you need a regular massage, or at least a foam roller: “Both can help break up the scar tissue that’s a natural consequence of exertion,” says Durkin. That not only speeds the repair process and reduces soreness but also improves range of motion, reports a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “Spend 5 minutes using a foam roller on your quads, hams, glutes, hips, and lower back before bed,” Durkin says. “If you can, also visit a massage therapist twice a month.”
Catch More Z’s
Muscle building doesn’t shut down when you hit the sack. “Your body repairs a lot of damage as you sleep, so it’s critical to get as much as you can,” Durkin says. Indeed, a lack of shut-eye can increase muscle loss by up to 60 percent, according to researchers in Brazil. The reason: Your body produces its greatest surge of growth hormone while you’re sleeping. What’s more, the fatigue that goes hand in hand with too little sleep can torpedo your workout performance. Your goal: 7 to 8 hours of quality slumber every night.
Take a Cold One
Tough workouts don’t have to result in aching muscles. Immersing yourself in cold water immediately after intense exercise can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by nearly half, say scientists in Ireland. That means a faster return to peak performance and a lower likelihood of missing your next workout. It’s still not too late. Fill your bathtub with 10° to 15°C water (cool tap water is usually cold enough) and soak in it for 5 to 12 minutes in order to reduce the inflammation that causes DOMS, the scientists recommend.