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Relaxation: An Important Part of Fitness!

Deb Stgo/Flickr.

We all know that regular exercise is important, which is why we try to offer you great locations, hours, and classes in which to make activity part of your everyday routine. But what do you do in between? How can you make your next workout your best workout, even when you’re not training?

Actually, there are plenty of ways to speed recovery and give yourself some energy for your next workout. Some tips are obvious: getting more sleep, icing sore muscles, and taking anti-inflammatories. But did you know that eating protein throughout your day can help your muscles re-build tissue faster? Or that chocolate milk is actually great post-workout food? What about an ice bath? Those people who take frigid winter dips to break world records might actually be on to something.

Keep in mind that rest is just as important as exercise. Sleep is the best thing you can give yourself — aside from nutritious food and plenty of water. Good sleep is what allows the tiny injuries done to the muscle tissue during heavy exercise to heal themselves and knit the tissue together in a stronger weave than before.

If you have trouble sleeping, consider a deep tissue massage. These can help limber up the muscles and keep them flexible enough for your next workout. Regular massage is also good for your circulation, and will help you learn where you carry tension in your body. Knowing this can help you take extra care of those tight spots. If you don’t have access to your own personal masseuse (and who does?), consider investing in a high-density foam roller. These devices are often used by physical therapists to utilize the body’s own weight to loosen muscles. Even just resting on a roller can re-create the sensation of massage.

If you can’t sleep, and you can’t massage, and you don’t like protein-heavy meals, at least consider improving your mental relaxation game. Consider a pre-workout meditation. Taking the time to focus your intention and consider your goals will make your workout feel that much more purposeful and meaningful. And who doesn’t want that?