The art of fitness recovery
For two solid weeks, our Olympic champions performed at their very best. And in many cases they were also required to be the best at “recovery”. Don’t we all know how much muscles can hurt and ache the day, or the next day, after doing hard exercise?
Of course, the world’s best athletes will be well versed in recovery and many will rely on physios, masseurs, cool down training and a wealth of other scientific techniques to ensure their muscles recover quickly and ready for top performance again.
But what can the mere mortal athlete do for recovery? There are many theories and ideas surrounding post-exercise recovery.
Cool-down stroll: If you have been running or walking hard, you should spend 10 minutes at the end of your session allowing your muscles to cool down. This can be done by walking gently for 10 minutes.
Stretch out: There are many theories but the majority of fitness experts still believe that stretching out used muscles after a bike ride or run will help to ease the aches the next day. Work through all your used muscles one by one and hold stretches for around five seconds each but do not over stretch. Listen to your body.
Drink and re-fuel: When you exercise you deplete your muscles of vital nutrients and fluids. It’s vital that you re-fuel these muscles. Aim to rehydrate within half an hour of exercise and make sure you eat a snack or small meal of protein and carbohydrate within the hour.
Compression clothing: If you haven’t tried wearing compression leggings and tops then you will still be in the dark about these amazing products. These days you’ll see so many professional athletes wearing compressions tights and tops, such as rugby players, runners, cyclists and yogis. But how do these clothes work?
An alternative way to help muscles recover
Compression tights and tops, such as Under Armour, have become hugely popular in recent years. The garments are designed to apply compression to specific muscles in a balanced and accurate way, so as to increase blood flow.
Compression while you work out
The theory goes that if your increase blood flow, and therefore send more oxygen to your working muscles, this will boost your performance and aid recovery of the muscles. Better blood flow also helps your body to get rid of lactic acid and other metabolic wastes – which helps you work at a higher rate for longer.
Compression after you work out
It’s claimed that improved oxygenation reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and accelerates muscle repair.
What we think: Having asked a few of our testers to give the compression garments a go, we can report back that they do seem to work. They will not perform miracles, so you can't expect to be muscle-pain free after walking a hill for the first time in 20 years, but if you're looking for help to ease sore muscles then compression garments are a good idea.
One cycling tester said: "I would normally have aching muscles the day after a particularly long cycle, say of around 70 miles and hilly. But if I wear my compression tights for the rest of the day, after the bike ride, I definitely feel as though my muscles aren't as sore the next day. I have tried both ways, with and without the compression tights and I reckon there is quite a difference in terms of soreness.
"Of course, this could be due to all kinds of other factors, such as being fitter, or putting my feet up after a bike ride, or eating the right things during and after the bike ride, but on the whole I'd say the compression tights do help. In winter, I'd be tempted to wear the tights while out cycling while in the summer I keep them for after the ride and wear shorts while cycling."