“Help me, help you.” This is what your body says every time you finish exercising in the hopes you will show it some TLC so it’s ready to go again tomorrow. More often than not we dismiss this suggestion and assume our bodies will magically repair themselves without any thought or effort. Then what happens? We are irritated when we’re stiff and sore and aren’t able to perform well at the next workout. Would you show up to work each day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed if you knew someone had deleted the project you finished yesterday, then expected you to redo it without even so much as an apology? I don’t think so. It’s the same concept with our bodies in that if we expect it to perform at the highest level, then we need to give it the chance to perform at the highest level. How do we do this? By preparing for tomorrow…today.
Exercise induces microtrauma to tissues which stimulates the body to repair itself bigger, stronger, faster afterward. Although our bodies do a pretty good job of this, sending reinforcements (aka Prep for Tomorrow techniques) can help—so why wouldn’t we? This is where being active participants in recovery is critical.
Prep for Tomorrow Techniques
The phrase we like to use here at SPARK is “Prep for Tomorrow” or PfT. There are a variety of methods that can be used and most people need to experiment with a few different types of recovery techniques until they find the one/s that work for them. Treating yourself as an individual isn’t something we say to make you feel special, but rather to show that each person is unique and has unique needs so there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all program. Here are a few techniques we start our patients/clients with depending on their needs:
1) Soft-tissue mobilization: hands-on manual techniques performed yourself or by a trained healthcare professional. This can include foam rolling, tennis/lacrosse balls, stick rolling, massage, etc. and can be performed on basically any soft tissue. Start with 5-10 minutes a day before and/or after activity and try a variety of techniques.
2) Stretching: static or dynamic after activity
3) Nutrition and hydration: It’s important to replenish the nutrients that were lost during exercise. This includes a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat because this is what we need as fuel and repair properties.
4) Sleep: One of the most overlooked and under-rated portions of PfT. During sleep is one of the most crucial times when our body repairs itself, so if we get an inadequate amount, we’re putting ourselves at a disadvantage for success.
5) Ice and Compression: these are somewhat controversial techniques as they do not necessarily have the most solid evidence at this time. However they are relatively safe techniques when used in the correct manner so it may be worthwhile for certain individuals to try them with guidance.
Think of recovery as preparing today for success tomorrow. Don’t waste all the hard work and effort you put into your workouts by skipping the after party of PfT. Because as we all know, the after party is the best part!
Never leave that til tomorrow which you can do today. –Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Ivy L. Jordan, PT, DPT, CSCS
Performance Physical Therapist / Running Performance Specialist
Dr. Jordan received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC and her Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. She competed for four years in cross-country and track and field while attending UMary with areas of specialty in the 1500/1600m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase. She continues to be an avid runner who has a strong interest in working with the running population, whether it’s achieving a personal record or taking the first step towards joining the running community. Dr. Jordan is also a high school cross-country and track and field coach specializing in distance events.
1. Armstrong, SA, Till ES, Maloney SR and Harris GA. Compression Socks and Functional Recovery Following Marathon Running: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Strength Cond Res 29: 528-533, 2015.
2. Bishop PA, Jones E and Woods AK. Recovery From Training: A Brief Review.” J Strength Cond Res 22: 1015-1024, 2008.