Recently Adam gave me a book he had read which he said I might enjoy. Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery is science writer, Christie Aschwanden's new book on exercise recovery.
Adam was right, I did like this book. Even if you are not a "sciencey" type, you will likely enjoy this book. You also do not have to consider yourself an athlete to get something out of it. Even if you just workout a few times a week recreationally, there is information that is valuable here.
Its only recently that 'recovery' has become an obsession. Back when I first started in the fitness industry (1990), the only thing discussed was that you want to wait 48 hours in between strength training muscles. That was about it! Of course that was fitness not sport.
Recovery for us non-athletes is really about health and often appearance/results, but for athletes it is about performance. One thing that I have realized, however, is that recovery is conceived by many to mean reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
But one of the more recent discoveries in recovery research is that some of the strategies people find helpful for reducing DOMS (ice, ice baths, heat/sauna, etc.) actually interfere with muscle recovery. The inflammation that occurs actually assists with the healing of the muscle tissue. Geez, kind of sucks, huh?
An interesting thing I have learned as a therapist, is that pain of any kind scares the crap out of some people, and often these folks have difficulty distinguishing DOMS from the pain of injury or illness, and it becomes a major deterrent to exercise adherence. I am still trying to come up with an effective way of helping these clients identify DOMS and get comfortable with it (or at least not view it as dangerous).
Aschwanden describes the history of the recovery industry which seems to have started in the 1960s with Gatorade and then on to Powerbar and other various bars. Ice, heat, massage, compression, various foods, beverages and supplements, and other popular recovery products and techniques are also discussed.
It was very enjoyable to read as Aschwanden describes the experiences and recovery practices of all sorts of elite athletes, which I find very interesting, as well as her own experiences trying recommended recovery products and strategies.
So what's your best bet for recovery whether you are a recreational exerciser, Olympic athlete or ultra marathoner?
Get enough sleep and listen to your body!
This doesn't mean giving up exercise because you would rather sleep past your alarm every day and because you hate exercise (you have to be able to find SOMETHING that you enjoy!). It means making sleep a priority (which everyone should do period!), and taking breaks from training or lessening training intensity when you are feeling unwell.
The macro stuff matters most: sleep, eat nutritious food, move your body.