by Emma Esslemont
Over the course of the past 6 months there has been a heap of awesome fitness challenges held across Sydney. I managed to get involved in a handful including City 2 Surf, The Sydney Tower Stair Challenge (1500 stairs that I would like to never see again) and the Spartan Obstacle Race.
Each of these events was rather unique in its preparation but also in the mental and physical challenges faced throughout. The one thing they all had in common however was the RECOVERY. It’s almost as important as the lead up. What you do with your body in the 24 hours following such events will determine how well your body can bounce back!
These 7 things are what I think are the most important to do after a hard physical challenge.
1. RE-HYDRATE: water water water…. Consciously consume 1 bottle of water in the 10 minutes following the event. After that think electrolytes & salt which are both lost through sweat. I like to add a little sea salt to my water (sports drinks are a little too sweet). If you are going to have a few post-race ‘celebratory drinks’ make sure you alternate with water. Alcohol will dehydrate you further which will impact significantly on your recovery.
2. REFUEL: What you eat in the 30 minutes to an hour post-race is unbelievably important. Your first meal should contain carbohydrates to replenish the muscles glycogen stores (you deplete these when you engage in hard high intensity exercise) and a source of protein to help repair muscles. If you can’t stomach the thought of a proper meal, opt for something like a protein shake with berries, banana, & coconut water.
3. RELAX: In the hour following an event you will have a little buzz on (well I know I do) because I’m so excited to have finished something I have worked towards. Then the slump hits…. this is where you just need to take 5. Sit down & just relax. Your nervous system has been wired with nerves and adrenalin before & throughout the event, so give it a chance to settle. This is the perfect opportunity to get the papers & a cup of tea and just CHILL.
4. GET A MASSAGE: This isn’t for everyone, but I love at least getting a foot & calf massage after a big event. It’s a chance to zone out but also reward your body for the physical onslaught you just put it through. Tired, sore muscles like a little TLC.
5. TAKE MAGNESIUM: I’m not big on supplements BUT one that I take daily is MAGNESIUM. It is an essential mineral in a huge number of the vital processes within the body, including muscle contraction & relaxation. Heavy exercise depletes magnesium & it needs to be replaced to assist with repair & recovery of the musculoskeletal system. Muscle cramping & twitching can be signs of low levels of magnesium.
6. SWIM IN THE OCEAN: While most professional athletes would opt for an ice bath…. I always prefer a swim in the ocean. It’s really good for your body physically, moving around in the water is ‘weightless’ and a good active recovery. It’s also great for you mentally; there is something about salt water that is unbelievably invigorating.
7. SLEEP: Sleep is vital for recovery. During exercise our body’s various systems (musculoskeletal & nervous system) are put through large amounts of stress. Then there is the mental side of such events. It’s draining. Sleep is where all the rebuilding occurs. Muscle repair takes place and the brain recharges. If you don’t get enough sleep you begin to incur ‘sleep debt’ which increases your risk of getting sick but can also leave you feeling run down & generally de-motivated.
It’s always more fun when you take on these challenges with friends! Then you get to share the satisfaction (and the aftermath) together!
About the Author
Em is a sports physiotherapist & personal trainer who loves just about anything related to fitness & food. Her website ‘Your Sports Physio’ has articles dedicated to health and wellbeing as well as information about common sports injuries, their management and how they can be prevented! Check it out at www.yoursportsphysioblog.com. You can also follow her on instagram @emesslemont.
thumbnail photo credit: thedreamlounge.net