It was with aching muscles and a now-or-never attitude that I peeled myself out of my favorite blue chair. If I could make myself start moving, I would feel better.
I am not a doctor or health professional. What follows, is simply what works for me based on past experience as an athlete.
The Recovery Workout
Recovery Workout – A low-intensity active recovery designed to gently work sore muscles and promote blood flow.
According to a 2009 Runner’s World article, Your Best Rest, doing an active recovery can set you up for a stronger workouts. Here’s what the experts say:
You don’t want to run on your recovery day—it’s an opportunity to recuperate from the stresses of training,” says Stephen McGregor, Ph. D., an exercise physiologist and advisor to the cross-country team at Eastern Michigan University. “But doing nothing isn’t ideal either, unless you are injured. Light exercise increases blood flow to the muscles, which clears out waste products that contribute to soreness and inflammation.”
From my experience, if I’m really sore the day after a workout then the second day is going to be even worse. The only tried and true method I know of is to lightly work the sore muscles and get a good night’s rest. As comforting as doing nothing sounds, it’s just signing yourself up for pain later on.
Before I go on, I just want to share a picture here of my “gym.” It is just about the least glamorous home gym of all time.
It is in our unfinished basement, where it is dark and drafty. The cement floor is not inviting and we need some more equipment before anyone but us would call it a gym. But, if you workout in the afternoon, like me, then the light shines through the tiny windows and makes it less like a dungeon. For someone who already feels like weight lifting is a prison sentence, natural light is key. The floor mat helps a lot too. And then my favorite part- the mirror – Sad but True. I suffer from Pretty Bird Syndrome – a lot of athletes do. That’s why there are mirrors in all the gyms.
And so it was with an aching body that I headed downstairs to this gym without glamour to a workout without glamour. I muttered to myself – Discipline before glamour. Here’s the routine I followed today:
I know it may not look like much, but remember, this is being done with sore legs — gentle is key. Anymore, I always warm up before any stretching of any kind. I’ve read enough RWs to know not to stretch cold muscles. If you’re too sore to even do the warm up then foam roll and massage are the best ways to increase blood flow.
I came up with this warm up. It’s 12 minutes and usually by the time I get to the second jumping jacks, I have to remove my sweatshirt or top layer. Then I stretch. Just the normal touch your toes business and similar stretches that feel divine, in a wow-this-hurts-and-feels-good sort of way. (I do wonder about these static stretches sometimes. I know most people are moving toward dynamic stretches especially before a run, but with warm muscles I think static are still ok. I need to do more research here.)
Then, I do what I call “The Jane Fondas.” These torturous exercises really do help my hip flexors and loosen up the sciatic region. I’m always in agony doing these. I picked these exercises up from a Pure Barre video that I used to do. All I gotta say is don’t knock it before you try it.
And then core work. A strong core is essential to running and proper breathing. I usually vary the exercises. I usually do more plank work, but today I didn’t. No reason – just didn’t. Then finished it out with the Foam Roller. I went upstairs with a little more bounce than I had when I came downstairs. It was a good feeling.
The only way to get to the top, break PRs, win races is with disciplined workouts. Isn’t that the truth? Few see the climb to the top. And so many others are looking for a quick fix. There is no such thing. I’ll share a poem excerpt I read this week. From The Ladder of St Augustine by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The heights by great men reached and kept/Were not attained by sudden flight,/But they, while their companions slept,/Were toiling upward in the night. (You can read the entire poem here.)
So with those words, I’ll close out my nightly toil. Goodnight all, I’m off to foam roll once more before bed. Yeah, I’m that sore.