While watching the Tour de France, I began thinking about how these amazing cyclists recover from their grueling rides. In addition to ice baths, compression, massage, stretching and soft tissue work, they do "active recovery".
This means that immediately after finishing a stage, they hop on a stationary bike and plow through about 15 minutes at a moderate tempo. It seems counter-intuitive right? But, the stationary ride (active recovery or "warm down") accomplishes two things: it brings the heart rate down slowly and it flushes out molecular by-products (lactate, pyruvate) of the high intensity rides, sprints and climbs.
Ever had an exercise hangover? This is the feeling you are left with after working out too much, or too hard...without proper recovery. An exercise hangover sort of feels like you got run over by a train, and you licked several ashtrays and/or you drank 12 vodka drinks.
The best way to prevent an exercise hangover is to do a warm down, or active recovery. Active recovery for us mere mortals can be the same as that of the Tour athletes, but it can be as simple as an easy jog, a long walk, or foam rolling (self myofascial release). Done immediately after your tough workout...or even the day after, it will provide the necessary flush your muscles need to feel fresh for your next workout.
Here's the bonus...with proper recovery your body will also produce more red blood cells and retain higher levels of blood plasma. Which ultimately means enhanced oxygen (without EPO's!) and more energy!* Other benefits include less inflammation, muscle soreness and damage, increased joint range of motion and lowered cortisol levels.
The following is my most recent active recovery workout...bespoke your own with a combination of light aerobic exercise, joint mobility work and self myofascial release with the foam roller. Have fun!
Frankenstein toe touch for hamstrings
Butt kicks for the quads
Hip shifts for lateral hip mobility
T Spine backbend for thoracic spine mobility and hip flexor opener
Deep squat for hip mobility
Chops with tubing for spinal rotation
Then foam roll: thoracic spine...
...top of IT band...
...and connective tissue around the ankle.
Brilliant. Easy. Bespoke.
*for the science behind active recovery read Ben Greenfield's amazing book "Beyond Training".