With almost 10 million people in the UK thought to have a health and fitness club membership, it is evident that optimal physical health is high up on the priority list for many of us. But, whilst we may know what type of exercise works for us, how many people have a robust recovery regime to support muscle health and help to keep us moving day after day?
Here, fitness blogger and trained sports masseuse, Miss L J Beauty delves into the importance of recovery, advising how you can achieve your goals without the muscle aches and pains.
Our bodies are wonderful and complex. We are made up of so many working parts that it can be hard to get your head around it, right? When it comes to working out and fitness, I like to think of my body as my machine. What does my machine need to help me and how can I make it stronger and last longer?
Let us start with the most obvious. Do you stretch your body? I don’t mean like you used to in PE class. Well, maybe I do. Most people really neglect the warm-up and cool-down part of their workouts because they are so focused on getting it done and burning the calories, job done right? Wrong.
It is so important to really stretch your muscles and there is so many benefits of a good stretching routine, including helping you to achieve more from your workouts, stopping you from overstretching your muscles and preventing injury. What’s more, it can even increase flexibility and energy flow, improve your posture and help deliver nutrients to your muscles.
Personally, I recommend warming up and cooling down for every workout. I also add two stretch-only routines to my schedule every week, this can be yoga or simply following an online tutorial.
Magnesium is an important nutrient for our bodies, it helps us to stay healthy and is used for a wide range of processes including muscle and nerve functions, blood sugar regulation and protein production. But how does it help with recovery?
Magnesium can optimise muscle contraction, help with muscle flexibility, loosen tight muscles, and can fight fatigue and tiredness, building energy production. It fights the build-up of lactic acid, strengthens the nervous system, helps to regulate electrolyte and is known to build strength in bones and teeth. It also helps to regulate blood pressure, meaning you can workout harder and better. You could say that it is kind of important, would you agree?
I have always struggled to get enough magnesium in my system, so thank goodness for BetterYou. Let me introduce you to my favourite products to get extra magnesium.
First up we have Magnesium Muscle Bath Flakes. I think there is nothing better for recovery than a nice hot bath. I add two to three big handfuls of the muscle bath flakes into a hot bath and try to bathe in them for at least 30 minutes to really let the flakes do their job. Longer if I can. Not only does this get magnesium into your system, but they also smell like heaven with lemon and rosemary essential oils.
Next, we have Magnesium Muscle Body Spray. This is a more targeted treatment that I like to use after my bath. I use it on areas that feel tight or areas I have worked hard, so normally it is my back or legs, as the spray is fantastic at helping to isolate the muscles that need attention. I find it has a slight tingling sensation which helps to get the blood flow to the area and I really like the warming sensation that it has. This spray really helps with the recovery process as the magnesium will get to where it is needed most.
Last, but not least, we have Magnesium Gel. I know I would struggle to choose just one of these products if I had to, but what I will say is if I were still practising sports massage professionally, I would always have this to hand. So, take from that as you will.
I use the gel on my tight and sore muscles. All you need to do is massage it into your skin and it absorbs really quickly. This is your one-stop Magnesium hit. Helping to aid relaxation and give a sense of wellbeing, the gel has no scent to it at all, so if you are looking for a non-scented option this is the one for you. It feels cooling on the skin and you can use it if you are pregnant too, which is awesome.
Massage and foam rolling
Something people always neglect is massage. There are so many benefits of massage, especially when it comes to fitness, as it is all about getting the kinks and knots out of your muscles, giving them the best chance of optimal performance.
I would recommend buying a foam roller and watching a few online tutorials on how to use it. The benefits of foam rolling are endless and if you couple this with magnesium supplementation, you are on to a sure-fire winner. In my opinion, massage is just as important as stretching and it has some, if not all, of the same benefits. So, grab a mat and get on your foam roller.
I am one of the biggest advocates for drinking water. We are 60% water, yet a lot of people live in a constant state of dehydration. This can have a huge effect, not only on the recovery of our muscles, but it can also affect everything we do. It can cause fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision and in extreme cases, nausea.
When we exercise, we need to use more of the water in our bodies to help cool us down through sweating and we need to rehydrate to counterbalance this. So, grab that water bottle and top it up. It is important to stay hydrated.
Sleep and rest days
Our bodies recover most when we sleep. Did you know this? Sleep is when the body can concentrate on what it needs to do to keep running on full cylinders, so try to get lots of good quality sleep. Turn your phone off, or at least set it to the side, an hour before you go to sleep. This will give your brain time to switch off and help you drift off.
Whilst we are on rest, rest days are also important as your body needs them to repair and recover. I know when people start new fitness programs there is a huge tendency to overachieve. But the "just one more" attitude can do significant harm to your training. You need to give your body the recovery time it needs, and this includes taking days off. You may have heard the overused phrase “fitness is made with rest”, this is true. Overtraining can lead to more injuries and this, in turn, can lead to more time off and lack of motivation. So, schedule plenty of time in your program for rest days - I plan two a week. Rest and recovery are just as important as sweating up a storm.
I hope my advice helps you to get the most out of your fitness routine and highlight how important it is to recover properly. We all want to get the most out of our workouts and to do this we need to recover.