One of the most important parts of an exercise regime, or just a healthy lifestyle that involves exercise, is recovery. I recently posted a blog on the strategies I’m using to stay healthy while training for a marathon at the age of 52. One of my friends, asked me to write about my recovery methods which, next to a great training program, are a key element in making sure I enter and finish my marathon healthy and happy.
- Compression: As a Yoga instructor, I’m well aware of how binding poses temporarily inhibit blood flow to a joint and allow fresh, oxygenated blood to flow into the joint when the bind is
released. This is a great way to get rid of inflammation that is “stuck” in a joint. (Note: Muscular stress is supposed to cause inflammation which is then removed through rebuilding and renewal, but sometimes the inflammation outlasts is usefulness.) Because it’s not easy to go about ones daily activities in a Yoga pose, I’ve invested in some Vodoo Floss (Kelly Starrett’s brand of bands) to bind my knees or ankles if the inflammation outstays its welcome.
- Magnesium Lotion: Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the
human body and plays a role in over 300 essential metabolic reactions. In addition, to taking a daily Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc supplement, I’ve stared to apply magnesium directly to my knee, hips and lower back to make sure I don’t get unwanted muscle aches and pains. I like the Ancient Minerals brand, because it has a texture that makes it ideal for massage applications.
- Fasting: I didn’t realize this was a recovery technique until I listened to a podcast with Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist and huge proponent of fasting. He spoke about a study that showed fasting limited inflammation in patients with Alzheimers, Type 2 Diabetes and other auto-immune disorders and how this could carry over to athletes. I’ve practiced what some call intermittent fasting for years (I eat within a 12 hour window) and this year started to fast for 24 hours once a week. I do this for health reasons: helping to kill weak cells that could go rogue and potentially cancerous; give my gut a break; teach my body not to go into a craving mode if I don’t eat for several hours (so helpful when stuck at an airport with overpriced, bad-for-you offerings). Now I’ve learned it can help lower inflammation. Please note, I do not fast for weight loss and would not recommend this protocol for someone with a history of anorexia or forced starvation eating disorders. Here’s the study Jason mentioned in the podcast https://news.yale.edu/2015/02/16/anti-inflammatory-mechanism-dieting-and-fasting-revealed#.WLiuA6tj2nk.twitter.
- Massage or Myofascial Release: The benefits of massage and myofascial release are very well documented. I’m in massage school, and we practice on each other, so I get plenty of massages, but I’m still very proactive and start each day with a quick five minute foam roller and Yumini Foot Walker and/or acupressure mat routine. My hack when I need to get extra benefits during a hard training period is to take an anti-inflammatory (large doseage of curcumin or tart cherry juice) thirty or sixty minutes before a big myofascial release or massage session.
- Avoiding anti-inflammatories when trying to build strength. Studies show that popping NSAIDs such as Advil or Naproxen cut the muscle building signal. If you are downing Advil after a long-run or hard strength training session, you are blocking your bodies strength building and repair signals. The study wasn’t done using natural anti-inflammatory compounds like the ones I mentioned above, but I have decided to take my tart cherry juice and curcumin the night BEFORE my long runs instead of after. Can’t find studies to back up this strategy, but it works well for me. I’m not sore after my long runs (note: endurance training does have less of an inflammatory response than lifting heavy weights) and I feel like my legs are getting stronger and adapting to the additional mileage rather effortlessly
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (T.E.N.S): These units are used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world for the relief of physical pain. There are two prevalent theories as to how this device works:
- The Gate Control Theory which suggests that there’s a neural mechanism in the spinal cord that acts as a kind of gate, shutting down or opening up the flow of signals from the periphery to the brain. Whether the gate is open, closed or partially closed depends on what sort of signal it receives from the brain to change the perception of pain in the user’s body. T.E.N.S frequencies interfere with the transmission of pain messages at the so spinal cord level, and help block their transmission to the brain.
- The Endorphin Release, which suggests that electrical impulses stimulate the production of endorphins and enkaphalins in the body. These natural morphine-like substances block pain messages from reaching the brain, in a similar fashion to conventional drug therapy, but without the danger of dependence of other side effects
Don’t use a T.E.N.S. if you have an acute injury, e.g. newly sprained ankle. However, it’s great if you have a nagging issue that is probably healed but there are still pain singles emanating from the site. For example, my most common area of concern is my lower back. I was diagnosed with herniated disks at L4-L5 over ten years ago. At the time, the pain was excruciating. I’m healed, but the area is still a weak chain in my body and if I feel it tightening up for no apparent reason, e.g. I wasn’t’ just deadlifting 300 #’s, I’ll bring on the T.E.N.S.
They range in prices from $20 to $300. I’ve tried the more expensive versions at trade shows and not noticed a difference.
I have his one from Amazon.
- Cold Therapy: The granddaddy of anti-inflammatory tactics has been given a high-tech upgrade with cryotherapy. Huge fan of cold therapy, but haven’t tried cryotherapy yet. There are literally three businesses within two miles of my house offering the service now. Maybe one of them will read this blog and let me try it for free?? I promise to blog about it!
Train smart and recover smart, my friends.