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Recovery: It’s something that just cannot be ignored, especially if your training regime is intense. Whether you’re trying a new move or your muscles feel sore after lifting heavy weights - you need recovery time 


Electric stimulation, ice, and heat, massage and stretching are modalities you can add to your recovery routine.


If you’ve ever had a therapeutic massage, you know the impact it has on your body. A spa treatment rubs the stress right off your body and actually gives you the same satisfaction after a hard workout in the gym.

But with the spa-skeptics out there, choosing the right massage therapy can get confusing. The reason for this may be that the evidence to back up the benefits of massage therapy has lacked scientific scrutiny until recent years. Massage therapy is often labeled an “alternative” treatment clubbed with acupuncture, chiropractic care, and mindfulness techniques. But things are looking up.


Massage techniques include effleurage, kneading, petrissage, friction, tapotement, and vibration/shaking. A message will dilate superficial blood vessels and increase the rate of blood flow via local nerve-mediated reflexes. Forceful massage also has the potential to increase the amount of blood volume pumped out of the heart by improving venous return. Blood flow rates take time to return to normal after a deep tissue massage; such effects suggest that a message may be able to support muscle performance and subsequent recovery.


In the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers demonstrated that massage therapy to sore quadriceps resulted in mitigating inflammation and supporting mitochondrial function. The researchers noted that despite having no effect on muscle lactate or glycogen, massage modulated inflammatory markers resulted in the countering of cellular stress caused by muscle fiber injury. Interestingly, the researchers also discovered an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis which may have the advantage of amping energy production during exercise. Of particular note, the myth of “lactic acid is massaged out of the muscle” has been disproven in multiple studies including the one just mentioned.


The beauty about massage therapy is that even if you don’t have a therapist or partner to assist you, there are ample devices in the market to help you - one being the humble foam roller.


Gaining a lot of popularity over the years, foam rollers are used to perform the self-myofascial release. Rollers that are firmer or have multilevel rigidity apply consistently greater pressure on sore muscles and may be more effective for you. A study at the Memorial University of Newfoundland published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that foam roller self-myofascial release applied to the quadriceps enhanced motion range without any concomitant deficit in muscle performance. This works out well, as most static muscle exercises before lifting ends up reducing muscle strength, but not foam rolling when done right.



Coming to stretching, it is an athlete's secret to consistent performance. The flexibility that you get from stretching is a must-have to keep joints supple, maintain range of motion, and recover from muscle soreness.


Joint range of motion has been shown to improve after flexibility exercise, chronically after approximately 3-4 weeks of regular stretching with a frequency of at least two to three times a week, and it may improve in as few as 10 sessions with an intensive regime.


However, you must keep in mind that static stretching before high-impact workouts is a no go. It can weaken muscles and increase injury risk. Instead, opt to warm up with jogging before a run or jump rope before lifting. Keep the stretching (such as the ones below) for after.


TYPES OF STRETCHING


1) Static Stretching: 


This is when you stretch a muscle for a hold of 15 to 30 seconds without bouncing or moving. It should produce a mild, painless pulling sensation in the muscle and not hurt your joints. 


2) Dynamic Stretching: 


Stretching style where you swing your legs or arms through a stretched position at your limits of the range of motion. The speed can be gradually increased.


3) Ballistic Stretching: 


This stretching forces a body part to go beyond its normal range of motion by bouncing into a stretched position. It triggers the muscle’s stretch reflex (and therefore muscle relaxation) but can make you more susceptible to injury if not done the right way or by someone inexperienced.


4) Passive Stretching:


This is basically static stretching with a partner who helps hold you in a stretched position. They can add a little extra stretch or get you into a position that you might not be able to on your own.


5) Active Isolated Stretching:

This involves holding a limb in a position without the assistance of another limb or partner. For instance, holding your leg up in the air without using your hands or a support.


6) Isometric Stretching: 


Similar to static stretching, but during this stretch, you contract the stretched muscle to resist the stretching movement.


7) Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: 


This is a combination of static, passive, and isometric stretching. First, you stretch in a static position. Then you perform an isometric contraction resisted by your partner for 10 seconds. After the contraction, your partner passively stretches you past your last static position. This is a very advanced form of stretching and need proper guidance.


Now, you’re all set to ready your muscles for your next big workout.

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