Most of us understand the importance of warming up before our workout, especially if we’re over 40. It’s almost intuitive. But what we do after our workout is equally important and it is well worth investing some time to develop a recovery strategy.
For a proper workout recovery we need to “rehydrate, refuel and reset” the body. Hydration and refueling are complex topics in their own right but most people will instinctively drink when they are thirsty and if tired and drained post workout, will ingest something to give them energy. It might not be the perfect ratio of carbs and protein, but it will help refuel
By contrast, resetting the joints, muscles, posture and alignment of the body is often completely neglected or limited to a few half-hearted or inappropriate stretches. However, just five minutes of resetting-targeted movement is enough to make a big difference.
Whatever our chosen activity, the repetition necessary for improvement can also increase the likelihood of injury, especially as we ramp up the miles and training duration increases. Our after-workout resetting does not replace any flexibility sessions we should already be doing; its purpose is to offset the negative effects of repetition, stop us from getting less flexible, promote good posture and just make us feel better in between workouts.
So instead of simply holding a few stretches, our resetting routine should also include a series of flowing movements that ease tired muscles, release tight spots, activate parts of the body that have been unused, include rotation and joint mobility and reset our posture. These movements will include stretching, but we will be moving in and out of the stretch several times rather than just holding the stretch once.
Different exercise activities require different resetting movements. These could be a combination of stretch positions you already know. Key concepts include moving off line, rotation and reversing any position we have just been holding. Sports such as cycling and road running involve movement in a single plane of motion with little rotation, so adding hip and ankle rotation and diagonal movement is important to help the body reset.
Resetting your body should generally follow closely after the workout ends, as soon as the heart rate has dropped a little and breathing is controlled. However, if you have over-fatigued the body to such an extent that even basic movement is difficult — like after finishing a marathon — then there is little that can be done immediately afterwards beyond staying as mobile as possible because adding further stress to muscles and joints too soon can be detrimental.
Tony Watts is a 50-something-year-old fitness fan who teaches cardiovascular and weight/resistance training classes at gyms on Grand Cayman.