So you’re on track, you have found your groove and have finally carved out the time for an exercise routine. In fact, you rarely miss a workout, but along with that training comes the aching muscles and joints. Now is the perfect time to create a recovery plan.
It’s important to take recovery as seriously as the training. The goal of exercise is to stress the body and break it down so that it can rebuild stronger. This is increasingly important as we age, as our muscles and bones naturally become weaker and we risk injuries within our daily routines.
Training is only effective if we find the balance between stress and recovery. Just like a training plan, recovery must be balanced and multifaceted. Rest, hydration, nutrition, and active recovery all play significant roles in getting the most out of each training session.
I already know what you are thinking, how do I add another routine to my day especially right before seeding? It is daunting, however we need to stop thinking about the time it takes away from our productivity and start considering what illness or injury will cost us long term. We all farm because we are passionate about the lifestyle so being healthy (both training and recovery) needs to climb way higher on our daily list of must finish tasks. (Story continues below the Fit Farmer podcast)
In creating this multifaceted plan, each topic could have its own book so to keep it simple I am just scratching the surface of the topics and the importance of how they interrelate for overall health.
33% of Americans get less than seven hours sleep and 83 million are sleep deprived. I speculate that the numbers in Canada would be very similar. I am one of those people who get less than seven hours especially during seeding and harvest. In examining my sleep patterns a couple things became evident. We have to focus on the quality of our sleep and creating an environment to sleep soundly. One of the best resources for ensuring we sleep soundly is Sleep Smarter – 21 Essential Strategies to sleep your way to Better Health and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson.
In auditing my sleep habits I realized that much of what I was already doing is why I rarely feel tired. Fortunately for me I had already many great sleep habits that allowed me to get excellent quality of sleep in the minimum hours. Having the knowledge to do that self audit is critically important. Quality sleep is a function of a lot of little things put together. Many sleep issues are environmental, having a dark environment (even using blackout blinds) eliminating screen time (including phones) for at least an hour before bed, never having laptops, phones or TVs in the bedroom, removing stimulants like caffeine from your afternoon diet, and getting to bed early. Sleep is not only the act of resting, there are so many hormonal interactions that recharge our minds and bodies that it plays a far more critical role in our overall health than we realize and why I put it at the top of creating a solid recovery plan.
Vital to optimal health and recovery is proper hydration. After periods of exercise our bodies require replacement of not only water but also electrolytes and minerals lost via respiration and perspiration. Using a post-exercise recovery drink along with hydration throughout the day is critical in our overall health. I am guilty of not drinking enough during the day and have no excuse (other than I hate stopping the seeder or combine to pee that frequently).
I am consciously making the effort every day to focus on proper hydration and when necessary replacing lost electrolytes and minerals. Hydration is also where I feel marketers most shamelessly deceive the people, especially youth. I see cocktails of sugar and food colouring being marketed as “sports drinks” all the time. As a society, we are drinking ourselves into obesity, poor health and the sport and energy drink segment plays a huge role. When in doubt, DRINK WATER or coconut water which contains electrolytes, mineral, amino acids, and antioxidants without the food colour and sugar. We really need to focus on the ingredients of what we are drinking. Far too many non nutritious calories are being consumed mindlessly in our daily routines and being justified as hydration.
I am not even going to scratch the surface of this topic as everyone has their own dietary beliefs and considerations as to what fuel burns most efficiently in their bodies. Despite the fact that we all know what fuel makes us run efficiently we still sometimes fail to consume what we know is best for us. We fail to plan and therefor plan to fail. When we discuss nutrition in the context of recovery it is most important to consider what all bodies need to recover and that is nutrient-rich, real foods from a variety of sources. The immediate fuel sources post-exercise are critical in setting the tone of recovery. I think when it comes to nutrition we have to experiment with what works during exercise, post exercise, and within our lifestyle. This is NOT permission to refuel with saturated fats, or over-processed foods after a hard workout, but rather to use nutrient-rich foods from many sources to replenish and repair the effects of a hard workout. I am sure that we have all seen the updated Canada Food Guide and have our own views of it from a food producer perspective however my take on it is that it is positive in regards to a finding nutrient-rich variety of foods to fuel recovery.
Give yourself a massage. When selecting foam rollers there are two primary types: large foam rollers and handheld massage rollers. The larger circumference rollers come in varied lengths from 12-36 inches, the longer ones being primarily targeting back muscles and shorter for hips, arms and isolated muscle points. There are many brands of handheld massage rollers from The Stick, Rad Roller, Theraband Roller Massager and a multitude of similar tools are a must-have that are simple yet incredibly effective. The often come in varied densities and surfaces for each individual’s preferences. Most of us roll because we are told to and because it hurts so good, however there is a lot more going on when we roll out those sore and tight muscles. Studies show that foam rolling increases muscle flexibility meaning you feel less tight and perform your workouts better and more effectively.
Rolling is focused on the myofascial release — the casing around your muscle fibres. This casing is often not very pliable which can limit range of motion it can also have “adhesions” which are fibres sticking together when they should be flowing past one another smoothly. These adhesions or trigger points are often formed as a result of injury, inflammation, or trauma. Whatever the cause, these sites of fascia binding causes inflammation and discomfort. Myofascial release helps separate these fibres and reestablish elasticity and integrity of the tissue. Inducing friction as a result of rolling by moving the facia even microscopically can allow the fascia and muscle to separate, relax and become more flexible. It also increases the blood flow to the region, and stimulates the nervous system to reduce pain signals to the muscles.
Contrast or Epsom Salt Baths
Contrast baths or hot/cold immersion therapy is a form of treatment using hot water immersion immediately followed by ice water immersion. As cruel as this sounds, contrast bath are an effective means post-workout to decrease pain and swelling, decrease and control inflammation, and improve mobility post strenuous exercise. Most people don’t have two tubs so variations can be made with hot cold contrast showers. As effective as they are they also take a great deal of courage to endure. If the thought of contrast baths/showers is just too much for you another effective alternative is taking a warm epsom salt bath. This method relaxes the body, relieves muscle pain and cramps, helps repair and restore nerve and circulation function, and finally eliminates toxins from the body.
Having a recovery plan means finding ways to relieve soreness, recovery energy and recharge for the next workout. Creating a recovery plan is just as important as the workout plan as we can only stay healthy and get stronger with proper recovery.