Recovery is the most essential piece of the pie in the realm of rehab and training, but it is often overlooked. Recovery allows for improved performance not just in sport, but with everyday activities. It allows our body to heal itself and prepare for the tasks and demands of everyday life. Adequate recovery strategies mitigate future injury risk. Recovery is multifaceted and does not just mean muscle repair. Recovery involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state, and more.
Sleep, nutrition, hydration, and rest are underutilized aspects of recovery. Too often we see technology and tools being overvalued for recovery. These tools can certainly play a role in how we feel post exercise but making small changes to our lifestyle is cost free and effective.
One of the simplest things to do is get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is incredibly important for your overall health. In fact, it is just as important as diet and exercise. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, duration and quality of sleep are directly linked to health and bodily functions. Adults require approximately 7-9 hours of sleep per night for healing processes to occur. Chronic illness such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease, stroke, and depression, can be worsened with poor sleep hygiene. In teens, children, and adults, not hitting the recommended amount of sleep is associated with increased risk of injury.
Though sleep may seem easy task, many of us struggle to get the recommended hours. To alleviate some sleep related anxiety, try implementing a nightly routine to prepare for bedtime. Limit screen time an hour before bed. Our body’s circadian rhythm (or 24-hour cycle) is heavily affected by light exposure. Reading a cell phone or watching a bright TV screen late at night can disturb natural levels of melatonin, the hormone responsible for our sleep/wake cycle. Instead, try reading, writing, or stretching to unwind your mind and body. Make sure the bedroom is reserved for sleeping only. In other words, do not work, eat, or perform regular tasks in bed, as it is meant for sleeping! More information on sleep hygiene tips can be found on our South Jersey PT Instagram page.
Nutrition & Hydration
Nutrition and hydration are the fuel that keeps us moving. Hydration is critical to health. All our metabolic and biologic processes require water for proper function. A simple way to remain hydrated is to drink about half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 ounces of water a day. This may sound excessive but it’s important to keep in mind that our body composition is made up of about 50-70% water.
In addition to water intake, what you eat has the potential to help your body heal. The type and quantity of macronutrients, as well as the timing of consumption, can have a major impact on performance, recovery, and overall health. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are all vital for life-sustaining functions of the human body. Eating balanced meals is key for recovery, as macronutrients are the building blocks of our energy systems.
Lastly, knowing when to rest is key. In training and rehab, we are stressing our tissues to adapt to the demands of life. Taking rest periods and active resting days are part of the process, as they allow time for these tissue adaptations to occur. Rest is necessary not just for physical recovery, but neurological and mental functioning as well.