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Recover Fast After Hard Workout, Run, Bike Ride or Swim

Updated on November 20, 2016
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Dr John applies his Biochemistry & Physiology research background (PhD) to develop reviews of exercises, training, run, walk, workouts, gym

Getting adequate rest between workouts and recovering quickly are essential parts of any training routine including weight training, gym work, running and cycling.

How well, and how quickly, you recover has a big impact on your improvement in sports performance and fitness and provided for more effective and more enjoyable training.It is similar to the value of warm-up and warm-down routines and planned programs.

Surprisingly, many people don't have after exercise recovery plans, and this may be affecting their training. Why is it important to adequate and efficiently recover after exercise?

The major reason is that tissues and muscles take time to repair any damage and to build the extra strength or endurance toy are looking for. You train to build muscle, strength, endurance and fitness, but your body needs time to respond.

Recovery time is particularly important after heavy weight training sessions or interval training when done of successive days.

Muscles need about one to two days hours to repair and rebuild. This is why it is important to have varied routines as part of your training and to incorporate cross-training into your program.

If you are a runner, going for a swim or bike ride allows you to keep working on developing your aerobic capacity but uses different groups of muscles in different ways and allows for recovery.

Working the same group of muscles too soon, may be counter-productive causing tissue damage rather than building new muscle fibers and improved circulation.

For weight training programs and gym workouts try to vary your sessions so that you don't exercise the same muscles groups in two sessions in a row or on successive days.


To Recover from a Hard Workout Don’t Just Do Nothing

Many runners and gym trainers look forward to recovery days for total rest and relaxation. But while recuperating from training stresses and strains is important, sports physiologist recommend that doing nothing is not necessary or ideal, unless you have an injury or extreme muscle tiredness.

Doing some light exercises such as cross-training or even walking provides blood flow to the muscles. This helps remove waste products that are one of the causes of inflammation and muscle soreness.

Various research studies have shown that engaging in a more active recovery process can soothe aching muscles quicker and better prepare you for your next intense workout.

Studies have shown that elite cyclists who exercise a little during their recovery periods and have a massage on their rest days recover faster and have improved performance when they resume training than a comparable group of cyclists who were very inactive on their days off.

It may also be better to have easy cross-training session on the day before a race, long run or heavy workout session than to simply do nothing. This gives your tired muscles a break from running or gym work and you will won't feel stiff the next day.

The ideal cross-training activities are relaxing 30 minute sessions riding a bike, jogging, swim laps, even walking your dog. Keep intensity rates quite low and do not exceed 50-60% of your maximum heart rate.

You should not be out of breath when doing these exercises. Aim for an effort level should be at about a four out of ten.

Tips for Cooling Down and Immediate Recovery

Follow this procedure to help start the recovery process immediately after a hard workout or other exercise session.

  • 0-5 Minutes => Cool down - Slowly walk and stretch until your breathing is steady. Dry off and put on some fresh clothes.
  • 5-15 Minutes => Do some stretching - While your muscles are warm, stretch them focusing on the tight muscles to relax them.
  • 15-30 Minutes => Apply Ice - Immersion in an ice bath for about 15 minutes is an ideal way to reduce the risk of inflammation and to cool down quickly. Alternatively use ice pack on sore muscles and joints.
  • 30-45 Minutes => Rehydrate and Refuel - Drink plenty of sports drinks and water to make sure you body is well hydrated, but don't overdo it as it can be dangerous. Consume foods rich in both protein and carbohydrates to help a speedy recovery. A glass of low-fat protein shale or even a chocolate milk drink will provide what you need.
  • For the Rest of the Day => Relax while keeping your feet elevated - This helps stop blood from accumulating in your legs and feet and help eliminate waste products that may have built up in your muscles.

Tips for Ensuring Quick Recovery After Exercise

There are as many methods of recovery. The following tips have been recommended:

Loosen Up with Stretching Sessions Immediately After a Session

While your muscles are still warm from your workout or run, stretch your tight muscles. Many trainers advocate the benefits of yoga, which gets you active while giving your muscles a good stretch. Research has shown that runners who do yoga generally perform better.

Keep on the Move with Some Cross Training

Doing some cross-training on your days off, relaxes and energize you. This helps prevent you feeling flat and stale when you are ready for your next run. However, if you are injured in any way have pain or soreness, or you are on the brink of injury take a true rest day with your feet up.

Massage Helps Tired Muscles to Recover

Research has shown that massaging after heavy exercise can reduce the soreness in muscles by about 30 %, and can often identify strains and potential injuries. A qualified person will notice tightness in your muscles that you may be unaware of, which provides clues to injury risks.

Make Sure You Get Plenty of Rest

It takes time to recover and you have to allow enough time for the processes to work. Both your body and your mind need plenty of sleep to recover from the mental and physical stresses of hard training. Aim to sleep for about seven to nine hours a night on your recovery days to give your body enough time to properly repair and rejuvenate itself.

Replenish Lost Fluids After Exercise

You need to replenish all the fluid lost during heavy exercise and for the hour or so after finishing the session. Drink regularly and keeping well hydrated for at least 24 hours after a heavy workout session.

Eat Smart and Well During Your Workout Recovery

Many runners and trainers let their discipline slip on their days off. This is a big mistake because many people have high-carb foods on training days. Ideally, you should try to eat within an hour of completing the last session. Make sure what you eat includes some complex carbohydrate, some fat and high-quality protein. Rest days are the time when you should be stocking up on proteins and nutrient rich foods including fiber rich foods to aid your recovery. Avoid the junk food snacks. Good food is needed not only to replenish energy stores but to supply the raw materials for repairing and building new muscles and building enhanced aerobic capacity.

Cool Down Properly After Each Exercise Session

Cooling down properly is best described as simply slowing down, not coming to a sudden stop. Aim to continuing move around and exercising at a very low intensity for about 5 -15 minutes after a workout. This movement of the muscle helps remove lactic acid that may have built up in the muscles and makes sure all the tissues get enough oxygen.

Take a Shower and Use Contrast Water Therapy

When taking your shower after exercise try alternating between two minutes of hot water with 30-60 seconds of cold water, followed by a minute or so of moderate temperature. This temperature cycling helps to cool you down and stimulates the circulation.

Avoid Over-training as This Delays the Recovery Processes

Designing smart workout routines with proper recovery sessions is the key to keeping on track and avoiding injuries. Think about your recovery and how to make them work for you.

Listen to Your Body for a Faster Recovery

The most important thing to do for effective recovery from heavy workouts is to learn to listen to your body. Feelings of tiredness, strain, or soreness in muscles or joints are early warning signs that you may need rest to recover from the training. If you go on you may risk major injury which will ruin your training programs. So listen for the warning signs.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • R W Bobholz profile image

    Richard Wayne Bobholz 

    6 years ago from Durham, North Carolina

    Thanks for the article. I'm getting older so my recovery time isn't instant anymore. I'll have to follow some of the new tips I learned while training for my next marathon.


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