Recovery has become something of a buzz word in the world of fitness and wellness lately. But what does it really mean? The concept refers to self-care—working to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. If you're anything like us, you take sore muscles as a welcome side effect, at first. It's proof you pushed yourself and put in the work. But not all soreness is the same. Some is longer lasting or deeper and more painful—when this happens, it can be a sign that you sent your muscles into shock or have too many tears in the muscle fibers, which leads to higher than normal inflammation. And then the soreness is less welcome.
The key, of course, is to focus on recovery after substantial activity. Something that a lot of us tend to forget. We asked human movement specialist Dr. Emily Splichal, podiatrist and founder of Naboso, why so many guys skip recovery. “Most people, not just men, overlook recovery—and that's because it can be tedious, boring, even,” she says. “I tell my patients that to prevent injury it is simply a balance of stress versus recovery. If you stress your body or tissue to a point that it exceeds the rate of recovery you will eventually get injured.”
Keep in mind, you don't have to be punishing your body like a pro athlete to need a recovery plan. Even those who aren't that active—the average person who's just sitting at a desk all day or hunched over their phone for too many hours—will benefit from setting aside time to focus on how their body feels and what it needs.
Sure, you're not sweating through grueling two-a-days, but in our always-on world, you are constantly dodging stressors that hot-wire your sympathetic nervous system (the one that controls the body's fight or flight response). That eventually leads to health problems because your body won't heal itself properly unless you're in a parasympathetic state. According to author and clinician Chris Kessler, if you're suffering from chronic stress, your body spends too much time alert, with your brain, heart and internal organs optimized to fight or flee; instead of in “rest and digest” mode, with a slower heart rate and organs doing internal maintenance.
Consistency is important when it comes to recovery. “Small doses of daily recovery however keeps your body and tissue away from this tissue stress threshold and you avoid injury,” advises Dr. Splichal. “In fact, it's actually better to do five minutes of recovery every day and be consistent than two times a week of 30 minute recovery sessions.” And with a regular recovery program, you not only alleviate aches and pains from your workouts and athletics, but you minimize the toll stress takes on your body throughout the week. To get you started, we've pulled the most technologically-advanced and expert-backed recovery methods on the market today. You won't need them all, but this is a great place to start.