Six steps to an effective recovery routine after a workout

Published on 27 December 2013
by Dino Masson

Do you know what most people choose to ignore when it comes to fitness training, but is most important in regards of athletes’ effectiveness, life expectancy, and health? The recovery phase, or in other words: resting.  

Because, just like sleeping – also part of the recovery phase– resting after fitness training is as important in the long run as the workout itself. There are several advantages to the recovery phase: it reduces the risk of injuries, improves physical performances and allows you to train while you’re still healthy, for a longer time!


Here are some tips to establish an effective recovery phase:

1. Dynamic warm-up

To facilitate post-training recovery, you must make sure to warm-up properly. If you start training abruptly, your muscles and joints will not be prepared to take it in.

Going for a fast paced walk or light jogging, moving on to light legs and arms moves, gradually increasing your range of motion, adding hips and shoulders rotations for a few minutes, then including back and forth and side-to-side rocking moves will be enough. The time you spend warming-up should be considered an investment.


2. Decrease stiffness with cold therapy

A method that has proven effective (however of minor importance) to reduce joint and muscle stiffness consists in using cold therapy. Immersing in cold water, applying a bag filled with ice to your leg muscle or knee, or even a styrofoam glass fill with frozen water directly on the shoulder muscle are different ways to make use of cold therapy.  

Apply ice for 10 minutes to a muscle that was highly solicited during your workout, right after your training.  


3. Light massage

A third way to improve the effectiveness of the recovery phase is to massage your painful muscles. Use a light massage technique, opposite a vigorous massage to undo tensions built up in your muscles!


For a few minutes, using your hands, a tennis ball or a styrofoam tube, massage the muscles that were strained during your workout.  


4.  L-carnitine supplement

It has been proven that 2 to 3 grams of L-Carnitine – do not mistake with Creatine– following strength training could reduce the extent of muscle stiffness and increase speed of muscle microlesions repair time.


5. Active recovery

Have you avec notice that professional hockey players often hop on a stationary bike in between periods or right after an intense training session? It’s not a way for them to continue developing their endurance – nor are they overzealous– but rather an active recovery method.

A 7 minutes active cool-down (walking, biking) allows faster damaged muscle recovery because of increased blood flow redirected to the muscle tissues.

This particular type of recovery is especially effective if you need to make an additional effort in the next hours or days following your workout.  


6. Post-training drinks

Post-training drinks such as chocolate milk (I personally endorse the product myself)– or a homemade beverage made of orange juice and whey proteins for example– is an excellent way to begin post-training recovery.  With a ratio of 3 grams of carbohydrates to 1 gram of proteins (total amount of each macronutrients vary as per each individual’s need), carbohydrates will be stored as glycogen, and proteins will contribute to the repair of damaged muscle tissue.

It is important to note that if you are planning a meal in the hour following your workout, it will not be necessary to drink a post-training beverage, your meal will certainly satisfy your needs in nutrients. However, it should include the proteins and carbohydrates necessary to your diet.  


What not to do to improve recovery?

Did you notice that I never mentioned stretching even once? You have quite the sharp eye! The benefits of stretching is in fact, a myth. Stretching does not improve recovery time. Not one study could ever prove its effectiveness. Quite the contrary, it might even increase the risk of stiffness and microlesions!  

You now are well equipped to recover better! You do not have to try all suggested options, and it’s not a life and death issue if you decide not to go through a recovery phase, but you now have all the necessary tools to be better prepared to face the outcome of your workouts!  

Dino Masson
B. Sc. Kinesiology