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When it comes to making strength gains, your time in the gym and the exercises you choose are important. Just as important as the time inside the gym is the time spent recovering outside the gym helping the muscles recover.
Workout recovery is a hot topic for personal trainers and clients. While recovery isn't something many clients think about, it is a critical part of their success. And that's where a personal trainer can really help their clients hit their goals by educating them on what to do the other 23 hours a day outside the gym.
First, let's talk overtraining. This is an important topic because it can be different for every person. A brand-new client who has never exercised before is going to require more rest and recovery days than one who has been training for several years.
As a personal trainer, it is important to recognize signs of overtraining and know how to avoid it. Common symptoms of overtraining include:
Unexpected weight loss or gain
Loss of appetite
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Just as hard as our bodies work during exercises in the gym, they need to work equally as hard to help our muscles recover. The recovery process starts as soon as the workouts are done. Below are some of the best ways to help your muscles and body recover to make the most out of each training session. If you have clients who are lifting weights, especially heavy weights, recovery is going to be an extremely important part of their training program.
The first step you should take with a client is to ensure they are performing a proper cool-down after each session. This helps with recovery to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. A cool-down should be completed after any weight training session or cardio session. Skipping a cool-down can lead to tight muscles and more muscle soreness. After a tough workout, have your client do easy walking or riding a bike for 10 to 15 minutes to bring their heart rate back down.
As a personal trainer, it is helpful to educate your clients on nutrition. The saying is that 80% of fitness goals happen in the kitchen, not what's done in the gym.
Post-workout nutrition. Clients should be consuming protein and carbohydrates within 30 to 60 minutes of completing a workout.
Drinking enough water. Even 1% of dehydration can affect a person's performance in the gym.
Skip the junk food. Remind your clients to stay focused on healthy decisions even when they're not at the gym—opt for foods that boost recovery and support a healthy diet rather than binging on junk.
If your client is putting in hours at the gym and eating right but only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night, they are not going to see results. Eventually, a lack of sleep will lead to fatigue and overtraining, and leave them be susceptible to injury.
Here are some examples to help clients improve sleep:
Shutting off the lights 1 hour before bed
Limiting screens 1 hour before bed
Sleeping in a cool dark room
Go to sleep and wake up the same times each day
Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
Rest days are important to maximize a training program. This doesn't mean sitting on the couch binging on Netflix and pizza all day. A rest day can entail a full rest day or it can be an active recovery day.
Rest and active recovery days are about doing things that your body needs. This could be anything from taking an extra nap, going to a yoga class, doing some stretching, or going for an easy walk or hike outside.
Rest day activities will vary depending on how many days of rest are happening. Also consider how many days your client is working out, especially how many days they have been lifting and how long they have been training for.
Foam rolling is an important part of muscle recovery every day. This can and should be done as both part of the warm-up and cool-down, especially before jumping into weight training. The areas are dependent on how the client feels and what they have coming up that day in the workout. Foam rolling is also helpful on rest days to work on tight muscles and mobility.
One of the newer ways to help your muscles recover is the infrared sauna. This is becoming popular among athletes as part of their regular training program. Especially with the endurance athletes, the sauna has become an important part of keeping their bodies healthy by reducing muscle soreness.
The infrared sauna is different than the normal dry sauna or even steam room in that it uses infrared lamps to warm you. The infrared heat from the lamps can be absorbed by the body much deeper than just skin-level. This promotes blood flow throughout the body, reducing inflammation.
Also, the infrared sauna is not as hot as a typical sauna, usually staying between 120-130 degrees.
Major benefits of the infrared sauna can include:
Decrease muscle soreness
Increase in sleep quality
Improved blood circulation
Increase in the immune system
Lessen joint pain
The cold tub, also called an ice bath, is not for everyone, but it can help with muscle recovery, especially after tough workouts. This is another recovery method rising in popularity.
Typically, a cold tub is kept between 44 and 58 degrees and you can stay in up to 15 minutes. For your first visit, you'll start with just a minute or two and work up to longer periods of time.
Utilizing a cold tub can help flush the toxins from the body and reduce inflammation, fatigue, and muscle soreness.
Another recently popular method for muscle recovery is compression therapy. The compression facilitates blood flow through the area being compressed and helps to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. This can not only be a relaxing activity which is great for rest days but has many benefits that go along with the relaxation.
Some of the benefits are:
Decreasing swelling and inflammation
Increase in muscle recovery
Reducing muscle soreness
Improving with range of motion and flexibility
Decreasing muscular fatigue
There are so many ways to help your clients with recovery from strength training, but these are some of the most common ways to educate them to get started.
If you are interested in learning more about working with athletes and fine-tuning their training techniques, check out our Exercise Recovery Specialist program. Personal trainers who use exercise recovery techniques in their sessions build the most holistic health and fitness programs available.
ISSA's Exercise Recovery Specialization unlocks the science behind recovery techniques. As a Certified Exercise Recovery Specialist, personal trainers can apply this information to their exercise prescription and programs, helping athletes and general fitness clients alike.