18 Tips to Help You Heal Faster After an Injury or Strenuous Workout
May 22, 2019 11:56
Whether you've been injured or are just extremely sore, there are plenty of ways to speed up the process of healing and recovering so that you can get back to doing what you love to do. Unfortunately, many athletes and sports enthusiasts don't give themselves the adequate resources and time needed to fully recuperate, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms of over-training or, even worse, an exacerbated sports injury that takes longer to heal than necessary.
Expedited recovery isn't just about getting back into action faster, as any step you take to heal faster will also result in a more complete rebuilding and rejuvenation of the body, so you'll be improving the overall quality of your training results and reducing your risk of future injury as well. With that said, here are the top 18 tips to help you recover faster after enduring strenuous physical activity or an injury:
1. Sleep Until You Don't Feel Like Sleeping Anymore
While many physicians and sports training experts are right about the well-known medical guideline for sleeping about 8 hours per day, on some days you might need even more than that to expedite your recovery. At an online nursing school, you'd learn some of the intricacies of the circadian rhythm and how to get the most out of your bedtime healing by using a type of sleep schedule called “biological sleeping” – sleeping until you feel like you don't want to sleep any more. Use this method to speed up recovery from all sorts of injuries and illnesses or just general soreness. However, it should be noted that sleeping for more than 10 hours at a time can actually lead to daytime drowsiness.
2. Utilize Massage Therapy
Getting a massage is a great way to loosen up your muscles and tendons and promote blood circulation to sore areas, which facilitates faster healing through more efficient delivery of nutrients. Of course, it also feels great and will therefore put you in a relaxing mood, which entails the release of feel-good hormones and brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. Both of which have been shown to speed up recovery times. Plus, massages reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, so it's a nice way to wind down mentally after enduring a long day of training or playing.
3. Stay Hydrated Instead of Re-Hydrating
Simply telling someone to “avoid de-hydration” might not be the most helpful tip for fast recovery because to really make sure you don't get too sore in the first place you need to stay hydrated throughout your athletic activity instead of taking the common and erroneous approach of re-hydrating when you're done. Thus, the real actionable step you can take to achieve this tip is to bring a cooler of drinks with you rather than stopping at a store or leaving drinks in your vehicle for after the game/training session. Likewise, staying optimally hydrated can help you reduce the risk of injury.
4. Do Stretches, But Don't Overdo It
Stretching is a commonly recommended activity to help athletes recover and avoid injury. However, the truth is that too much stretching, or the wrong kind of stretching, can actually be detrimental. When your muscles and tendons are rebuilding themselves after being torn apart by an exhausting or demanding activity, it's not a good idea to stretch them too often because you'll be slowing down the tissue repair process. Generally, stretching 1-2 times per day is sufficient. Obviously, if you're trying to recover from an injury then you might not want to stretch that particular area of your body if it's painful, but it may help to stretch other connected anatomical areas to promote blood flow to the area.
5. Give Yourself More Than Enough Time to Heal
Most people have the urge to get back into action as soon as they possibly can, which usually means waiting until the soreness subsides. If you really want to make sure you're fully rejuvenated, it's best to relax for an additional 1-2 days after you feel like you're ready. It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking you're 100% out of anxiousness to return to your favorite sport/activity, when in reality you're probably still only 90-95% recovered. Giving it an extra day or two of rest can help you not only return to your full potential, but also make gains, which should be the goal anyway.
6. Take a Hot and/or Cold Bath or Shower
Hydrotherapy – the act of using water of various temperatures to facilitate healing – is an ancient practice that has been used successfully since the days of the Roman gladiators, and is still one of the world's most common methods of relief after a long workout. There are several approaches you can take, depending on what kind of soreness/injury you're dealing with. Some experts recommend ice baths for reducing inflammation. However, you may want to alternate between hot and cold water every 15 minutes for ideal results and to avoid having a low body temperature for an extended period of time, which could weaken your immunity.
7. Use Hot/Cold Rags or Pads
Wetting a wash cloth with hot water and applying it to the area that is sore or injured will help to bring blood to the area and loosen up some of the stiffness so that the swelling can go down. Applying a cold rag or ice pad to the area will reduce the inflammation after the heat has opened up the anatomical structures through tissue expansion. This is in line with the previous tip as it is technically a derivative form of hydrotherapy, but it can be done using heating pads or ice bags as well.
8. Utilize Active Recovery Techniques
Active recovery is a technique that involves using light activity, such as exercises that are much easier than what you'd normally do, in order to promote proper healing. This concept revolves around the reasoning that the body rebuilds itself more accurately and effectively when it isn't completely stagnant. It is a common misconception that yoga is a form of active workout. While you may be able to do a few novice stretches, it is certainly not a good idea to engage in an entire session of yoga, and you should avoid any intermediate or advanced poses while recovering.
8. Eat Plenty of Wholesome Foods
Some of the foods that you might want to include in your recovery diet regimen include yogurt, chicken, salmon, turkey, brown rice, beans & legumes, nuts, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, and fruits of any kind.
9. Germinate Your Rice Before Slow Cooking It
In line with the previous tip, if you decide to heed the suggestion of eating brown rice, try germinating it for 24 hours in a bowl of water at room temperature. Then slow cook the rice on the lowest heat setting for 8-12 hours. Why would you do this? When rice or other grains germinate, they produce a special amino acid called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), which stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGR) and helps with the growth and healing of every area of the body.
10. Take a Recovery Supplement
The type of supplement you should take will depend on your training or recovery needs, but most general multivitamins are a great start. If you're finding it difficult to eat all of your protein needs from food alone, you might need a protein and/or creatine supplement as a boost to help reduce your recovery times. While it's best to get most of your nutritional needs from your diet, moderate supplementation can certainly help speed things up.
11. Start Eating a Pre-Workout Meal
If you aren't already getting a decent serving of protein before you engage in physical activity, now is the time to start. Pre-workout meals and supplements have been shown to dramatically improve recovery and promote faster gains in strength and endurance as well. Smoothies and shakes are the ideal methods of consumption because they're easier to digest quickly. Check out this list of the best pre-workout foods for more inspiration.
12. Start Meditating
While it might seem like meditation is an unnecessary step, you can't really knock it until you've tried it, and there's plenty of scientific research to justify it. There's no need to sit Indian-style all day humming, but just a simple closed-eye meditation session lasting for about 10-20 minutes can help your mind relax and de-clutter. During this time, when your thoughts are clear and calm, yet you're still in a conscious state, your brain can focus on healing more than when you're in the typical pre-occupied mindset.
13. Get More Sunlight
Did you know that more than half the population doesn't get enough sun to facilitate optimal vitamin D absorption? Higher vitamin D levels have been linked to an improved prognosis for healing and faster recovery times. In general, it's best to get at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight without sunscreen each day. If you're going to be in direct sun for longer than a couple of hours consecutively, you may want to apply sunscreen.
14. Listen to Music
It might seem like a trivial and superstitious suggestion, but science has proven that listening to music after surgery helps patients recover faster. Of course, this concept applies to any kind of healing. While it's not entirely clear why this works, it appears to have something to do with mood improvement and the associate brain chemistry. Listening to music is an effective way to reduce depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions that can hinder the healing process.
15. Avoid Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol's legal status and ubiquity in social circles makes it somewhat difficult to avoid, especially for popular school athletes who are often invited to parties where beer and liquor are present. Try not to cave into the peer pressure because drinking alcohol will inevitably slow down your healing due to its burdening effect on the body. The old saying “everything in moderation” doesn't really apply here – just avoid it altogether while you're recovering.
16. Perform Self-Myofascial Release
In laymen’s terms – use a foam roller to roll the knots out of your muscles. Doing this once or twice a day can really help to reduce soreness and promote proper healing because it works the kinks and stiffness out of the tissues. This also helps to prevent muscular imbalances or oddly shaped muscles. There are many devices that can help you roll your muscles, but foam rollers and semi-rigid rollers are the most popular options. Of course, if you don't have either, you could just use a rolling pin from the kitchen as a quick substitute.
17. Take Naps
Getting as much asleep as you want was mentioned in the very first tip, but it's worth revisiting this to include a generous pre-disposition towards daytime naps. It's common for people to ignore the drowsiness that often comes in the afternoon when you're sore from working out. Instead of ignoring it, take a 2-hour nap. You can make it shorter, but 1 and a half hours is required for a full cycle of REM and it may take a little while for you to fall asleep, so 2 hours is the sweet spot.
18. Wear Compression Garments
You've probably seen many professional athletes wearing compression sleeves and under shorts. These aren't just there for the fancy aesthetics – studies show they can actually speed up athletic recovery by keeping the tissues tightly compressed to avoid excessive inflammation.
Incorporating These Tips into Your Regimen is Easy
In closing, there's really no reason for anyone to avoid any of these suggestions, as they can all be easily and quickly implemented into just about any schedule. After all, if you're going to be in relaxation mode anyway, you should have plenty of time to start trying new things with your diet and wellness regimen. Using all of the above tips in unison should help you reduce your recovery times by up to 30-50%.
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