World athletes, especially endurance professionals, know something about muscle recovery. Many of us who work out and compete as amateurs look for ideas to minimize muscle soreness and prevent injury. We all get sore and wish that there was a magic formula. For Angela Naeth, Canadian Pro Ironman Champion, Founder of IRACELIKEAGIRL and Owner of Angela Naeth Coaching, managing muscle pain is her day to day trade.
"Muscle recovery is a key component for any athlete to continue to build fitness, strength and athletic performance," said Angela. "While recovery time is always necessary, there are techniques that every athlete can do to help minimize downtime, speed up the healing period and improve the repair process of muscle damage."
For Angela, there is no secret, the muscle recovery method needs to be part of a daily routine that we follow rigorously: sleeping, taking the time to rest, doing some active recovery, eating well, hydration, massages, stretching, foam rolling and wearing compression clothing.
SLEEP - Get Enough Rest
Many studies prove the benefits of a good night sleep on energy balance and removal of toxic substances and metabolic waste. According to the National Sleep Foundation, during the restorative stage of sleep, our blood pressure drops, we breathe slowly, our blood flow moves to the muscles and consequently tissue is repaired.
"When the body is asleep, it restores balance to the body. Quality sleep is crucial for repairing muscle tissue damage," explains Angela. "Lack of sleep can actually contribute to loss of muscle mass due to hormonal changes that occur when we sleep. Needless to say, sleep is critical".
The standard amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours for the average adult. As an athlete, Angela will often need to add a nap to her routine between training sessions.
Indeed, it is recommended that "athletes schedule daily naps like they schedule their training sessions. Ideally the nap should be less than 30 minutes so that the athlete is not getting into deep sleep and waking up feeling groggy," according to the Community for sleep care professionals.
Spacing out workouts and resting
"The best way to recover from hard workouts is to ensure you are complementing them with active recovery, rest and that you are spacing out the hard efforts. Taking days offs doesn't only improve your recovery process but it also boosts your fitness performance. For me personally, I totally feel that resting my body allows me to adequately repair my muscles and prevents burning out. I learned it the hard way throughout my career," says Angela.
"To help improve recovery, look for at least one day off every 10-14 days as a start, and create a rhythm to your training. Within a week, a good way to set your days is two days “hard”, one day “easy”, three days “hard, one day “easy”. Try to have a “no-leg” day as well - where you give the majority of your muscles some well deserved time off - (e.g. swim only day, followed by a rest day)".
Angela is wearing Caliloko Santa Clara Sports Bra.
Active recovery and increasing blood flow
"To help the healing process of any muscle damage due to training, I plan active recovery as part of my routine. It means easier workouts that allow for movement at a much lower intensity (jogging very easy, walking, cross-training). Easier movements allow my body to release any lactic acid build-up and minimize stiffness, which help promote blood flow, and reduce long term inflammation when at I am at rest," shares Angela.
Protein and proper nutrition
"Post-exercise fuels are one of the key components in the recovery process. Drinking a recovery shake (3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio) can help restore the lost calories and ensure you’re providing your body enough nutrients to repair itself. This needs to be taken within 30-minutes after the workout or training session," says Angela.
Protein is a very valuable macro nutrient for muscle repair and recovery. It is made up of essential amino acids that are exactly that- essential for maintaining and increasing muscle mass. I roughly take 1.2 grams of protein per pound of my body weight on a daily basis," adds Angela.
"Drinking enough water is important for all bodily functions and one of the best recovery techniques - and, it’s so simple! Being properly hydrated allows the body to digest nutrients more easily, repair muscle damage and restore balance in all systems. The average water consumption is roughly 64 ounces daily. As athletes, a good rule of thumb is to drink your weight in ounces, at minimum" explains Angela.
Massage is a great way to alleviate stress, and help the body recover. It helps to lower cytokine levels (inflammation) and reduce muscle soreness. Massage can be done by a professional, and also by self-massage. Using massage oils with added benefits (essential oils, CBD oil) can help improve the process.
"Stretching improves blood flow to your muscles and helps improve your range of motion. It contributes to keep your muscles supple and flexible. As you stretch, you not only prevent muscle injury but you also improve your athletic performance. Stretching post-workout is the best. Active stretching is my favorite. Choose a target muscle, flex it, hold the position for around 10-15 seconds and repeat a few times. It's my rule of thumb," says Angela. One example of active stretching is lying on your back on the floor and raising a straight leg toward the ceiling until you feel your hamstring stretch. Holding that position without a strap requires active work from your hip flexors and core to keep your leg in the air, while your hamstrings- the muscles on the opposite side of the hip joint - are statically stretching. It is performed after a workout because this type of stretching could decrease your muscle power before the workout.
Self-Myofascial Release & Foam Rolling
"Another great recovery process is rolling and myofascial release. A band of connective tissue called “fascia” surrounds all your muscles. Loosening your fascia allows your muscles to glide smoothly and correctly. When your fascia is tight and tough then your muscles have difficulty moving in the correct form and this results in injuries. Foam rollers, release therapy balls, and other tools like massage percussion devices can help you release knots and tension. You can use oils and massage creams to help as you use these tools," explained Angela.
To help with fitness recovery, it is recommend to regularly wear compression calf sleeves or long tights during the night. "Using compression clothing such as Caliloko is a tool I use daily to help speed up recovery. It is designed to promote blood flow and improve oxygenation of muscle tissue, which can enhance athletic performance during short bouts of exercise," said Angela. The noticeable result when we speak with athletes wearing compression at night, especially since they're working out daily, is a leg stiffness-free next day. Compression clothing is designed to make your body ready for the workout that’s coming or the day more enjoyable without that lingering soft pain as a result from lactic acids remaining in your leg muscles after prolonged exercise. Recovery tights are also a great option as they compress not only the calfs but also the hamstrings, quads and glute muscles.
Angela is wearing Caliloko Yosemite Active Tights Gen 2.0.
About Angela Naeth Coaching
Angela Naeth Coaching is a triathlon and endurance sports coaching company started by Professional Triathlete Angela Naeth.
Our coaching staff will work with you to make training part of your daily routine and enable you to accomplish feats you never thought possible!
Through her own experience, degrees in Health Science and Physical Therapy, and coaching experience, Angela and her staff are determined to support others achieve their athletic goals.