If you’re someone who takes your fitness seriously and enjoys training in the gym, it can be easy to forgo recovery at the expense of squeezing in an extra workout or two throughout the week.
It’s important to remember though, that recovery plays an essential part in building lean muscle mass, maintaining a lean physique, and achieving optimal health and performance.
Here are five of our favourite ways to boost recovery, optimise wellbeing and get back into the gym fighting fit:
Get enough sleep
There has been a number of studies conducted over the past five years relating to sleep and how it affects our physical and mental health. Given that we live lifestyles where we are constantly staring at our screens, available to work around the clock, and busier than ever before, it’s hardly surprising that our sleep is beginning to suffer.
It’s not just the number of hours that we’re clocking, but also the quality. Deep sleep is particularly important, as this is when our bodies are at the greatest state of rest and can achieve the most recovery.
Optimal levels of sleep vary between individuals, so experiment and see what works for you. Eight hours is generally a good goal, and the number of hours often cited by health professionals, however, if you’re particularly active, you may find that you benefit from more. If you’re struggling to clock enough z’s, try curbing your afternoon caffeine consumption and minimising screen time in the hours before bed.
We know that stress wreaks havoc on everything from our digestion to our skin, making it much harder to maintain a state of good health.
When it comes to training, stress is actually a key component of building muscle. Every time you work out, you’re putting your body under stress. This forces the body to adapt, which is where we see progress being made.
In this case, stress can be a good thing – but like all good things, you can have too much, and that’s where we see fatigue and feelings of burnout beginning to manifest.
Offset the stress of your workout by trying to manage stress in other areas of your life. There are lots of different ways to reduce stress, from journaling to yoga and meditation, to talking a walk outside or giving your mind a break and indulging in a Netflix binge.
Eat enough protein
You’ve probably heard before that protein is the building block of muscle, and that’s entirely correct. Getting a complete profile of amino acids is essential for building and maintaining muscle.
By resistance training in the gym, we’re increasing our muscle protein breakdown in the part of our body that we’re using. Consuming enough protein in our daily diets, but particularly around training sessions, helps to reduce that muscle protein breakdown, and increase protein muscle synthesis.
The overall goal is to achieve a greater rate of synthesis than breakdown and eating enough protein will help get you there. Current recommendations suggest that consuming 1.6 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight will put you in good stead. If you’re struggling to reach that point through food alone, there are plenty of good protein supplements on the market that can help.
Treat yourself to a massage
Many athletes and individuals report an experience of faster recovery from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a massage. Not only does a massage feel great, but it can also help to promote recovery within the body. It can increase blood flow, relieve tension in muscles, and can ease inflammation.
If you’re particularly sore, it can be well worth a visit to a remedial massage practitioner. In addition to the benefits you would get from a regular massage, a remedial massage therapist will assess and treat you with the express purpose of enhancing recovery and performance, as well as managing any injuries you may have developed.
Plus, massage has the added benefit of reducing stress and, if you can get one close to bedtime, may assist with sleep.
Schedule proper downtime
You can’t expect your body to recover if you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends. At the recent Live Well Festival, we heard Kimberley Wilson from Monumental Health say that scheduling time to do nothing was one of the most common tips that she gave to her clients in helping to improve their mental health and in turn, their digestion and gut health.
Giving ourselves the luxury of downtime can improve many different facets of our health, allowing us to function at our prime. We know that rest plays an essential part in recovery, so allowing yourself to really, truly rest (without feeling guilty or stressed out over what we think we should be doing) is hugely important.
When it comes to what to wear during your downtime, Sculptmode has a range of products to help you with your recovery. For ultimate comfort on rest days, the Sculpted Joggers and Pullover should be your comfy go-to, but for serious recovery, try the Sculptmode Compression range. The technical performance wear is engineered to reduce muscle oscillation and improve recovery post-exercise.