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Elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, high levels of toxins in the blood, damaged muscle tissue and overall fatigue are just some of the after-effects from a grueling workout. Let’s face it, if we had our life insurance physical just after a workout, we would be classified as high-risk, and probably stared at by the physician waiting for us to drop over.
There’s no doubt about it, by the end of our exercise routine, we are at a low point physically. We beat ourselves up in order to improve performance, but by the end of our workout, performance is severely diminished. So why is it that we are actually better the next time we exercise? Well, it’s because our bodies have recovered from the previous bout. Performance doesn’t improve because of the workout; it improves because of the healing that occurs after the workout. Without the healing process, we would grind ourselves into dust. So in reality, our performance increases during the time we are doing nothing!
We call this healing process recovery, however, that word is probably not accurate. The human body has a natural response mechanism to damage such that when it heals, it overcompensates in order to prevent recurrence of the damage. This is referred to as adaptation. Our body has adapted to a higher level of performance, be it strength, endurance or conditioning.
Some of the after-effects of a workout dissipate quickly. Our body temperature, pulse and breathing may return to normal within minutes. However, other effects can take days. Tissue damage, neural and cellular disruptions can take from 4 to 10 days to complete the healing process, depending on individual conditions. Even though the body will heal itself unaided, studies suggest there are some things we can do to enhance the process. If we think about exercising as repeatedly generating micro- injuries, then we will understand why common injury treatments can also improve recovery time.
Icing is one of the easiest and most studied recovery techniques. Often considered only when we have an “injury”, icing plays the same role in healing from a workout as it does in more serious damage. Many have experienced the value (and shock) of an ice bath immediately after a hard workout. There are ongoing studies on the mechanisms behind icing, but evidence shows a significant improvement in recovery rate. Additionally, the effects of icing can be enhanced by adding compression to it. The combination of ice plus compression can decrease recovery time even more than icing alone.
This may all be wonderful stuff, but who has time to do it? After all, we are regular people with jobs and school and families to tend to, not professional athletes who can spend an hour or more in the recovery room. Thankfully there are some products on the market to help us common folk out.
Matthew Organista, professional triathlete, told us he puts IceSleeves on his calves immediately after his workouts. This cold-therapy wrap was developed especially for active people to promote recovery without interfering with their regular routine. Organista finds it significantly reduces the duration of muscle soreness resulting from intense workouts. The recovery techniques once reserved for elite athletes are now available to the masses. We will achieve our greatest performance improvements when we optimize not only our workout routine, but our recovery routine as well.
Find out more at IceSleeves.com