Recovery has become a buzz word for consumers and a hot trend at fitness clubs. From massage guns to compression boots and light therapy, there are many tools gyms offer to aid active recovery. For the average gym-goers in your facilities, it’s important to realize the benefits of recovery and understand why it’s imperative to a balanced workout routine.
There are two types of recovery used by fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes: active and passive. Both improve the body’s ability to recharge after a tough workout or series of workouts but take slightly different approaches.
Active recovery usually involves a tool and/or a dedicated space. Many facilities offer access to the tools previously mentioned, in addition to foam rollers, stretching bands and even recovery rooms. Guided self-massage paired with stretching is a great add-on to personal training services. Having stretching benches or tables may also offer members a safe place to stretch, especially if they have trouble getting down to the floor. Recovery-focused classes are also a fantastic way to build community around recovery. Yoga – especially restorative types – fascial stretching and general mobility classes help move the body in ways the promote regeneration physically and mentally.
Passive recovery is typically quite simple and adds value in class spaces or personal training sessions because they require little equipment and zero cost to the club. Breathing is the best way to stimulate and enhance recovery because it assists the body in shifting from the high intensity sympathetic – fight or flight – functions of the nervous system to the low-stress parasympathetic – rest, digest, heal – functions.
Controlled breathing practices are easy to implement in the cool down portion of classes and training sessions. Even just three minutes of mindful breathing helps reduce heart rate, blood pressure and overall stress levels. The faster a member’s nervous system can switch into the rest and digest processes, the faster they can recover from their workout and the more prepared they will be for the next session.
Sauna, steam rooms, light therapy booths, cold plunge pools and whirlpools also offer a way for members to enhance their recovery. Heat increases circulation, which helps remove metabolic waste more quickly and creates a sense of relaxation. Cold causes acute constriction of the blood vessels but immediately increases circulation once the body is removed from the cold. Research suggests this may enhance muscle reoxygenation and preparedness for subsequent workouts. As with any modality, heat and cold exposure should be introduced gradually due to the risk of increased cardiac stress.
Educating your members on the benefits of recovery is just as important as offering services to drive recovery. Consistent member communication via email and during the check-in process are the best ways to share this information. Fitness professionals who work directly with members can more easily educate them on the importance of recovery due to the relationships they’ve built with their clients and class participants.
Many gym-goers understand they need to achieve the weekly minimums of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. But they often forget the importance of recovering from that physical activity. The beauty of recovery modalities is they take up less time and typically require minimal to no additional equipment.
The major benefits of investing time in recovery are:
- Muscle repair and adaptation. Workouts cause microtrauma at the cellular level of muscle and for those tiny tears to repair, increased circulation and rest are imperative.
- Prevent overtraining. Taking a day off to gently move and allow the body to bring down cortisol and stress levels will prevent members from pushing themselves too hard for too long. Overtraining occurs when too little rest and recovery are scheduled and can result in an overuse injury, raise the risk of dehydration and decrease mood.
- A little goes a long way. Even adding five to 10 minutes of breathing and gentle stretching at the end of a tough workout can reduce muscle soreness, increase blood flow to the fatigued muscles and promote overall calmness.
The world outside the gym will continue to grow increasingly stressful. Incorporating recovery into your fitness offerings will help your members improve their fitness and their resilience to stress. Find offerings that fit your philosophy, educate and communicate those offerings to your members, and continue to change your members’ lives positively by making a balanced workout routine possible.
Photo courtesy of VASA Fitness.