Why Recovery Is Necessary and How To Do It As An Active Woman
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
For fit women, a day off is not always desirable. We want to move, we want to push ourselves, we want to keep working towards our goals. We don’t want to stop our progress with a break. But sometimes continuing to push can actually impede our progress and a “break” is exactly what we need to break through to the next level. However, taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean stopping entirely. Active recovery is a wonderful way to press pause on the heavy lifting and help the body recuperate without coming to a full stop.
Here are some active ways to help your body recover:
1. Stretching or Yoga
Over the course of rigorous training, the body builds up a layer of lactic acid around the muscles. Breaking down this lactic acid is essential for the body to maintain its range of motion, flexibility, and ability to grow the muscle. Long, slow, and gentle movement ( like yoga) helps the body do this. Stretching can help keep you limber and loose so that you can keep training in the right direction.
If you’d like to join us for a quick 5-minute stretch to loosen your back and open your hips, click here!
2. Go for a light walk or incorporate low-impact, low-effort movement
Going for a light walk is another incredibly easy way to recover. It helps you feel like you’re still moving, without being at a high-intensity level that feels like a “workout”. You can still get your heart rate up and burn calories but you are primarily circulating the blood so that the cells can reach the muscles and repair tissue.
Need help finding some low-impact exercise to get your body moving? Our Morning Movement sessions are perfect!
3. Use a foam roller to release muscle tension
This is one of our absolute favorite methods and it is not done enough by most athletes. Foam rolling is one of the most efficient ways to break down the lactic acid we talked about earlier. It is similar to a massage: the lactic acid is physically moved and broken down (without paying a massage price tag each time!). Foam rolling is extra effective when combined with stretching. You will be able to immediately feel the difference in the length and looseness of your muscles compared to before you rolled out. There are tons of different varieties of foam rollers that can offer gentle pressure for those who just need a light touch or trigger point pressure for those who want more deep tissue release.
One of our favorite foam rollers is perfect for busy women on-the-go. The Morph Collapsible Foam Roller from Brazyn is strong enough to support up to 350lbs but flattens down and is small enough to slide into any backpack or briefcase (about 2 inches flattened and 1.5lbs). They offer two versions depending on what kind of intensity you like.
4. Cold therapy
Cold therapy is also one of the most effective methods for recovery- if you can handle it! It is a quick and easy way to improve muscle soreness and reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. Cold therapy can also increase your metabolism and promote weight loss (yes, it’s that easy). When the body is exposed to colder temperatures, blood flow is restricted from the surface of the body and is sent (with crucial nutrients) to the core where most of your vital organs are. It also activates immune cells which can help us be more healthy without even thinking about calories. (And especially right now, who doesn’t want to be as healthy as possible?!) One of the challenging parts of cold therapy is that it is COLD. Ice baths and cold showers are probably not high on many of our lists of methods to recover. However, as LeveledUP women, we deal with and move on from discomfort in all areas of our lives and cold therapy is a very tangible way to learn how to do it even better!
5. Heat therapy
Heat therapy is probably more widely used for recovery than cold therapy is. Heating pads are often used to help relieve sore muscles; steam rooms and saunas are common in gym settings to finish off workouts. During heat therapy blood vessels are dilated, increasing blood flow to the muscles and cells. Amino acids are attracted to damaged muscles and cells to help them repair. Autophagy also takes place in a heat setting, clearing out damaged cells and leaving room for newer cells to develop. In a steam room or sauna especially, the heart rate increases, burning calories. While the pores on your skin open and you start sweating, your body begins to detox and your skin clears up. Heat therapy also promotes flexibility, which is why you see so many dancers and athletes wearing layers as they warm up. They are using heat so that their muscles can lengthen for optimal performance and for injury prevention.
As much as you may want to keep going, keep training, keep pushing...active recovery can serve you in different yet equally important ways. At LeveledUP Experiences, we are not doctors. We cannot prescribe you individualized tasks that will work for your body and lifestyle. However, we have a lifetime of experience dancing, training ourselves, and coaching athletes and we know what works. This list is compiled from personal experience as well as what we have seen our clients benefit from.
In order to get the best results from active recovery, you must make it a practice. The more proactive you can be about recovering, the better and more efficient your body will be at it. There are so many benefits to active recovery: fat leaving the body, better moods, more strength, higher physical ability. But none of this will come with just one active recovery session. Studies show that regular foam rolling results in fewer injuries. Regular cold therapy practices can lead to an increased lifespan, and in one study, endurance athletes ran 32% longer after two 30-minute sauna sessions per week. The results speak for themselves. But, only if you practice. So take a day, take a week, take whatever you need, and allow your body to recover so you can continue to make progress and achieve serious breakthroughs!
To dive into active recovery right away, try this LeveledUP Experiences task…
Practice heat therapy and cold therapy for one week. Take a cold shower in the morning and then take a hot shower at night. See how your body feels after each shower. Take stock in how your muscles, body, and brain feel. Are you more alert? Do you feel energized? Do you feel relaxed? What is your range of motion like? Do you have any pain? Notice the difference between the two each day and then again at the end of the full week.
If your body feels better, let us know here!