Post-Workout Recovery Tips

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/06/23  12:00 PM PST
workout recovery tips with spinal cord injury

A Routine Is More Important Than You Think

So, you have finished your workout… breathe heavily… grab some water… and get on with your day. Right? Wrong! A post workout recovery routine is just as important as the workout itself. These are some of the ways I achieve a full spectrum health & fitness program.

 

1. Cool Down

I always finish my workout with a cooldown, which allows my heart rate to gradually return to its normal rate. It also helps to stop blood pooling in my lower extremities, which can sometimes make my blood pressure drop, causing lightheadedness. A proper cooldown can also help to relieve stress, prevent muscle soreness, and prevent injury.

2. Stay Hydrated

After a workout, rehydration is essential, especially if you have exercised intensely or broken a sweat. Replenishing your fluid levels improves muscle and joint flexibility, builds strength, and prevents soreness. I drink at least 12 ounces of water or a healthy beverage like coconut water, fresh juice, or the professional cyclists’ secret elixir: chocolate milk! I also like low-sugar sports drinks that contain electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, that can prevent and relieve muscle cramping. I recommend avoiding overly sugary, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks, which may cause dehydration.

3. Eat a Healthy Snack

Nutrient timing (when you eat) is very important—equally as important as what you eat. I like to eat a healthy snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing my workout. This helps replenish muscle energy stores and start the recovery process. I suggest eating foods that contain carbohydrates and protein.

Carbs help to restore glycogen levels (glucose/sugar) so you can recharge your energy levels. Protein aids in muscle recovery and provides amino acids that help to repair and rebuild muscles. I will write a detailed blog about nutrient timing in the future; until then, you can read a comprehensive blog about nutrition HERE.

4. Stretch

I purchased a massage table for this reason — to stretch after my workout while my muscles are still warm. This helps to elongate connective tissue, relieve tension, reduce spasticity and muscle tone, and enhance overall flexibility. Stretching also helps prevent muscle soreness and increases range of motion. I use a few assistive modalities that I keep in a basket which sits next to my massage table. You can also keep these next to your bed or on the couch, whichever works for your setup:

  • Foam Roller
  • Stretching Rope with Loops
  • Tennis Ball
  • Calf Stretcher

Stretching, above all else, improves my mobility and promotes proper posture. In addition to stretching I am a huge fan of massage… Here is a blog about massage and pain management.

5. Rest

This is when and where the magic happens! It may seem obvious, but quality rest is illusive in our busy lives and without it, we are rolling on thin ice. Follow this LINK to read an in-depth blog about quality sleep and the many ways to achieve it.

6. Do Light Movement on Rest Days

While your muscles need time to recover after an intense workout, you can still do light exercise on recovery days, such as a recumbent stepper (NuStep), or elliptical, swimming or water therapy, like WATSU (Read about it here), or assisted yoga. Engaging in active recovery may help to prevent joint contractures, spasticity, lactic acid & toxin buildup, and it boosts circulation.

 

In addition to the six tips above, I use hand-held percussion devices like the Hyperice Hypervolt and Necteck Back/Neck Massager to aid recovery and reduce my pain.

Hyperice Hypervolt

  • 3 Different Speeds
  • 5 Interchangeable Heads
  • Lightweight

Necteck Back/Neck Massager

  • 8 Kneading Heads
  • 3 Different Speeds
  • Heating Feature

The Necteck Massager is also great for other parts of the body – lay it across your stomach for activation, or down your leg to work on your quads or hamstrings. There are plenty of other great brands out there, but these are the ones I chose (not sponsored).

My favorite little recovery/relaxation item is a microwavable neck roll. Because of my level of injury, my sensation is impaired everywhere except my neck. I will pop that long sandbag in the microwave for two minutes until piping hot and layer it over my shoulders while reclined. It literally melts my stress away.

*Warning

Items of extreme temperature can cause bodily harm. Use with extreme care! Take it from me, I have the scars to prove it— both heating pads and cold packs have caused blisters without me knowing it.

If you have any questions please reach out. I would love to hear from you!

Aaron

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