Here are a few tips that apply to anyone who is exercising regularly. If you’re not exercising regularly, why not?
1. Eat within 30 minutes of a workout.
It has been well studied that your body is super-efficient at absorbing and utilizing nutrients for about 30 minutes right after a workout. Technically, whenever we are working out and using our muscles, we are causing micro-trauma to these muscles. It is the healing and repair of this micro-trauma that ultimately makes us stronger. Why not fuel this process as effectively as possible and get the most out of your workout! You don’t need to take in 1000 calories; a simple glass of chocolate milk will do. Look at it this way; your recovery for your next workout begins in these 30 minutes.
2. Avoid stretching before a workout.
There is actually a lot of controversy out there about the benefits and risks of stretching. Stretching also causes micro-trauma/tears to our muscle bellies. Stretching cold muscles is generally believed to not be a good idea and can sometimes cause/aggravate problems. It is much more important to just make sure you start each workout with some form of a warm up. If you’re going out for a run, you should ALWAYS start slow and warm up, especially if you’re going out on a faster paced run. If you’re doing a gym or boot camp type workout, warm those muscles up by doing simple exercises like jumping jacks, running in place, or other easy, low-intensity movements. If you have a mobility issue that warrants stretching, it is best to stretch after your workout. It would also be a great idea to see a physical therapist and see if you do have any mobility issues (like tight hip flexors!) that need stretching in the first place.
3. Taking NSAID pain relievers before or after a workout is generally a bad idea.
You just went for a long run or bike ride. Now your legs are a little sore. Pop a couple of ibuprofen, no big deal, right? Lets look at the reason you’re sore. Hopefully it’s just muscle soreness. But remember that exercising will cause micro-trauma to your muscles and then your body heals this and ultimately makes the muscles stronger. When you take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), you are inhibiting your body’s natural healing process and thus decreasing your body’s ability to get stronger. Yes, your muscles may feel less sore, but now your workout doesn’t count as much. In fact, you may be sore from a joint, tendon, or ligament problem. Instead of hiding the problem with medication, it’s best to address why these areas hurt before a more lasting injury sets in and derails your training for a longer period of time. Again, physical therapists are great resources for all those exercise-related aches and pains. Last, NSAIDS can cause stomach ulcers and other adverse effects.
4. Form matters more than miles.
If you look at where most running training plans go wrong, it’s when people say “I’ve got to get in X miles today” regardless of how their body feels, because that’s what their training program tells them. If they have poor form or inadequate strength and stability, something is going to break down as the mileage increases. The same is true for swimming, biking, and most any other endurance sport. Don’t wait until you’re injured to address a form or strength issue. Do it right from the start with advice from a coach, or experienced (and honest) person and you’ll be able to follow your training plan successfully!
5. Rest is recovery
Another downfall of many training plans is not focusing enough on sleep. Lets face it, those non-professional athletes out there—us—have got a lot of other stuff going on besides exercising! What’s the most likely thing to suffer? Your sleep! Sleep is when your body recovers and repairs itself. If you are exercising like a beast but not getting enough sleep, something’s eventually going to give. You simply cannot continue to perform at a higher level if you don’t work in time for adequate sleep. There are only 24 hours in a day. You should be sleeping for 7-8 of those. Cut out the junk, like TV, the couch, electronics. I will argue that anyone can make time for regular exercise and adequate sleep, all the while working hard and spending plenty of quality time with your family. Make sleep a priority. Think of it as part of your workout program!