"Stepping into what looks more like a time-machine, and probably costs the equivalent of what time travel will in the near future, cryotherapy is essentially the same treatment as an ice bath"
There are countless methods that claim to be beneficial for speeding up recovery. Before I dive into only a few of them I'd like to say that most of them do work to some degree. This does not mean that they are all a must, and does certainly not mean that you'll have DOMS for the rest of time if they are neglected. Before you jump in an ice bath, cyrotherapy chamber, or buy your own pair of those weird compression trousers, for god's sake, just please get your sleep and nutrition on the right path first.
Taking ice baths has been, and still is, one of the most used methods of recovery across all sports. Although, there is still a never-ending debate on whether it speeds up the recovery process or hinders it. But then again, it all depends on the context. Did you push yourself so hard in training that your knees and ankles are actually hurting. Are they actually swollen from the hard work? Then yes, the ice bath will probably help. Submerging any part of your body in ice will cause your body to restrict blood flow to that area to protect the vital organs, and therefore reducing the inflammation in the area submerged. Although temporary, it even reduces the pain by causing an analgesic effect. Is the above reason is not the case, and you only want to get rid of a bit of soreness? In my opinion just grow a pair and deal with it... Although if you really are that sore, there are definitely methods that are better suited than an ice bath. Like, active recovery.
Ice baths might be the most used method of recovery, but active recovery must be the most overlooked. I believe it is overlooked for one reason: it's seems too simple to be true. People are too much "work hard", "no pain, no gain" and not enough "work smart" and "KISS" (keep it simple, stupid). Success doesn't always have to be wrapped in hard work, sweat, blood and tears. Sometimes, or should I say most of the time, the most difficult of issues are solved by the simplest of solutions. Active recovery is one of the smarter, simpler, and more effective methods of recovery. have you ever had one of those weeks with multiple session where squats exceed 3 reps (something weightlifters are not all that use to, and bloody hate) and your legs feel like jelly? Yeah, sound familiar? Do a bit of active recovery. It doesn't have to be complicated. Going for a walk with your pain-in-the-ass-psycho-barking-rat-looking creature of a Chihuahua might be the solution for a good recovery session. (Don't know if you can tell, but I'm not a fan of Chihuahuas). It's that simple!
When you're training you're breaking down various tissues, and as a result those tissues grow back better, stronger, and faster. While that process is happening you experience a state of physical fatigue. This is what most people associate with recovery. However stress comes in loads of various forms. Training is a very focused type of stress. Other types of stress factors are often work, whether physically demanding or not, screaming kids, traffic, never-ending barking Chihuahuas, screaming kids, lack of free time, and many more. Oh, and screaming kids... Most of your stress is developed though everyday life and is hard to just get rid off overnight. The key then becomes to manage the fatigue that is being accumulated over the span of a day, week, month, or even year. With training it's easy because it's controlled stress. You just program X number of rest days each week and a de-load week every 4 to 5 weeks, and buuub, Bob's your uncle! But managing stress where you aren't 100% in control is a different story.
Prolonged periods of mental stress can affect our physical state and worsen your ability to recover from physical activities. People suffering from anxiety and/or depression often face this complication. Although this is only one symptom associated with anxiety/depression — physical tiredness — it's one that has a big impact. Despite having had any exposure to physical activity, ones energy levels can hit rock bottom by being in a state of constant stress. Stress management can therefore significantly change ones recovery time.
Stepping into what looks more like a time-machine, and probably costs the equivalent of what time travel will in the near future, cryotherapy is essentially the same treatment as an ice bath. Just, instead of using water it requires liquid nitrogen. Professional athletes and swanky Equinox fitness enthusiasts, alike, swear by the benefits of cryotherapy above any other method. That is not to say that it doesn't work, because it most definitely does — since it's basically the same thing as a bloody ice bath, it makes you freaking cold! But are the benefits of stepping into one of Tony Starks interventions actually that much better than a bath filled with cold water and 3 - 4 £1 ice packs from Tesco? I'll let you make that decision.
The weird compression trousers
What are they suppose to do? Good question, because I wasn't sure myself to begin with either. However, some reading later, this is what I found. As the name suggests they have a compression element to them, duuh... With several compression chambers within the odd looking trousers, this recovery tool will apply compression starting distally, at your feet, and going proximally, towards the heart. Just like with a massage, the purpose is lymph drainage. AKA reducing inflammation in your legs. Although I haven't personally tried a pair, probably because they cost the equivalent of one years salary, I'm comfortable saying these, like most recovery tools, will benefit your recovery game.
Deep tissue massage
Oh boy, massage... Today all athletes have their own personal sports masseuse rubbing them up, down, sideways, and places they shouldn't be rubbing (unless you pay extra). As with any other type of recovery method in this article, it has its benefits. In my opinion, massage, in comparison to any other compression type recovery tool, is the greatest method of recovery as far as a pseudo type method. However, I'd still say that most people overestimate the benefits of a massage. Yes it increases blood circulation, reliefs stress, increases range of motion (grey zone), decreases blood pressure, releases "tight" facia etc. etc. but so do many other recovery tools/methods. But what a massage does better than everything else is placebo magic. It's incredibly hard to get a massage and not feel like the world just slipped off your shoulders, without the massage actually having had that much of an actual physiological effect. Massage has been believed to be the best method of recovery for ages, therefore when you get a massage, no matter good or bad, because you believe it to be the best, the effects will be that much better. And how can you compare massage to any other method when it's the one with the highest likelihood of a happy ending? Yeah, exactly. For real though, massage is in my book one of the best method of recovery — after sleep and nutrition obviously.
With the technology apocalypse literally taking over the world as we know it, using technology to your advantage is the least you can do. The last couple of years the usage of muscle stimulation devices, like the PowerDot used in the above photo, have become extremely popular, at least between professional athletes, especially crossfit athletes. If that is because they're getting paid to use them or because they actually feel like they're good for their recovery is not something I'll comment on. However, it's been scientifically proven that muscle stimulation devices have a positive effect on recovery. They have shown to increase blood flow, reduce lactic acid build-up, and much more. It's also believed it will reduce injuries, pain relief, and increase strength, endurance, and even speed. But, before you order your £350 muscle stimulator I'd just like to say one thing. Taking your ugly looking chihuahua for a 20 min walk will have quite similar effects as the muscle stimulator, for FREE. Well, you have to put up with the f***ing chihuahua. The only difference is that you can't sit on your couch watching telly and go for a walk with your rat simultaneously. You can do that with a muscle stimulator device.
Yep, you read that right! Even sex can be considered a recovery method of sorts. let's just say it is also a kind of muscle stimulator — if you know what I mean. But seriously though, Apart from the physical work you have to endure during sex, the amounts of hormones that start speeding up and down your system is incredible. Apart from the obvious ones, sex has LOADS of great benefits. It more or less increases the production of any good type hormones you need and are able to be produced in your body. From serotonin, dopamine, testosterone (extremely important for recovery), corticosteroids (analgesic effect), all the oxytocins, and many many more.
The ultimate recovery plan
1. Sleep 8+ hours per night.
2. Consume more calories than you expend (Try to keep it to "healthy" food please)
3. Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water daily.
4. Do some type of active recovery after your workout for at least 15 minutes.
5. Try to avoid situations where your stress levels will exceed 5/10.
6. Get a massage every now and again.
7. Have loads of intercourse.