by Dr. Tim Maggs, © 2000
The million dollar question-"How can I recover quicker from both injuries and training/racing?". Nature's time frame for recovery and our recovery needs are often in conflict. Speeding this process has kept many researchers (as well as yours truly) burning the midnight oil searching for advances. My greatest teacher was personally being on the disabled list. I wished my only goal was to recover from a marathon.
Unfortunately, I tried in vain for 8 years to recover from chronic calf pulls (over 75 of them). I guess being personally injured automatically eeked the interest level up a notch or two. I'm not sure if it was intelligence or ignorance that kept me persistently looking for an answer, but I ultimately found one, and this is now the foundation of my Maggs Muscle Management™ Program.
An exercised muscle will go through micro-traumas. The micro-tears that occur after exercise require time to heal. That time is our recovery period. With a little forethought and discipline, we can expedite the recovery process, from both training and racing, while also reducing our vulnerability to injury.
The first step in a speedier recovery is to prepare your muscles better. Fast and short or long and slow, muscles recover quicker with a thorough warm-up. My muscle management program encourages the increase of blood to muscles (The Stick is one way to do this), coupled with thorough stretching of the muscles. This will increase both the temperature and length of the muscle, making the muscle more efficient in both exercise and recovery. Circulation (food and oxygen) to the muscle will increase, while harmful toxins will be flushed from the muscle.
Once a muscle has been worked, and depending on what degree of work it's done, it will contain micro-tears. A worked muscle will also be tight, much like a clenched-fist. This environment suggests the need for circulation, but Mother Nature's time clock insists that a muscle must slowly relax before healthy volumes of new blood can get into the muscle to begin the clean-up and healing process. Again, with the combination of The Stick and stretching, new, rich blood flow is introduced to a muscle while the muscle is being manually relaxed. This allows food and oxygen to get into the muscle much quicker, expediting the whole recovery process.
Now, to add one more piece to the puzzle, you have your carbohydrate window, which can help dramatically in this process. Studies have shown there is a period after intense or long endurance exercise that muscles are "hungry" for glycogen restoration. During a brief period after exercise, this "window" is your opportunity to consume carbohydrates that will speed recovery and increase your stores of glycogen for future use. "The longer you wait before you consume carbohydrates, the less 'hungry' your muscles become," says Dr. John Ivy, Ph.D., director of the exercise science laboratory at the University of Texas. "If you wait longer than 15 minutes, the rate of absorption is decreased by roughly 50%."
This basically says that, instead of sitting around reminiscing after a race or hard work-out, get out your Stick or ask a friend to apply some good massage to the most worked muscles in your body. Then, ingest some carbohydrate recovery product that will feed the muscles exactly what they are looking for.
Optimal Muscle Recovery (The Book)
In his new book, Optimal Muscle Recovery, Edmund Burke, Ph.D., states there are 4 major concerns when it comes to getting a muscle to recover quicker; 1) Restore fluids and important minerals to recover from dehydration, 2) Replenish glycogen, a primary fuel source for energy, 3) Reduce muscle and immune system damage resulting from the physical stress of exercise, and 4) Rebuild muscle protein, which is important for the maintenance of muscle structure and function. Burke calls this the R-4 System.
Long-time Lance Armstrong coach, Chris Carmichael, is an advocate of this R-4 System. Carmichael bases a lot of his recovery principles on Burke's work and claims that an athlete's ability to perform at a high level is directly proportionate to their ability to recover and repair muscle tissues after strenuous training.
In the first 30 minutes after a training session, Carmichael has his athletes replenish their glycogen stores with an energy bar and recovery drink. He then encourages a small meal of unrefined carbohydrates and protein. As this picking and choosing of foods can be somewhat complicating, Burke and several prominent exercise physiologists developed a sports drink that meets his recovery and nutritional guidelines. More information on any of Burke's work can be found on his website, www.OptimalMuscleRecovery.com.
The bottom line is that many benefits lie out there, readily available for all to use. It's just a matter of implementing them into your schedule and managing your life a little better. I can assure you that being on the disabled list for an extended period of time will certainly make you improve your management skills.