Posts tagged #recovery

Ice for Recovery - Medicine or Myth?

We’ve long believed that ice is our friend; that ice will expedite our body’s healing process and that ice chips and frigid dips are something akin to a miracle cure-all for pain and soreness. If you twist your ankle or walk into a door, you are told to apply ice to the injured area in order to speed healing. The reason you do this is that the cold helps constrict blood vessels and thereby reduces swelling, but could you be doing more harm than good? Are you really speeding healing or are you maybe… gasp!… slowing it down??

Okay, we fully understand that calling into question the sacred practice of applying ice to injury could be considered blasphemy by many trainers and physical therapists. Still, it’s worth a critical look. Certainly there can be no doubt that putting ice on a painful injury is effective to slow swelling and ease pain, at least temporarily. Corner Cutmen will apply an End-Swell - the “eye iron” - to a fighter’s face and forehead to try to keep swelling limited so her sight is not affected and so that she’s less focused on any accompanying pain. And this surely makes sense for a short term remedy, especially in the context of competition, but when it comes to the extensive use of icing for recovery, serious questions arise.

This Post-Sparring Ice Treatment is So Last Year!

This Post-Sparring Ice Treatment is So Last Year!

Think of an injury as a highway auto accident. You need to get the wreckage cleaned off the road to allow the oncoming traffic to pass by. But as more congestion builds up, emergency and tow vehicles will have an even harder time reaching the scene, making matters worse. You’re not going to signal cars to slow down, you’re going to wave them to move along. Same goes for dealing with an injury - you want to keep things moving in order to get everything back to normal as quickly as possible.

Any time you have an injury or soreness your body immediately goes to work to repair the damage. As the healing is happening, the damaged muscle area gets gunked up with scar tissue that needs to get flushed out. However, when you apply cold to the affected area you are, in fact, reducing the bloodflow to the area. While there is some value in this in the beginning stages of an injury, by preventing new gunk from collecting, your body is also hindered in being able to clean out and restore the injured area.

The main theory driving the relatively new stance on icing revolves around the idea that inflammation is actually a good thing. The process of inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury by introducing special hormones through the bloodstream to the affected area that promote healing. And while the swelling caused by inflammation is painful and annoying, rest assured that good things are happening and you should mostly let them happen.

Now you may say, “okay, but what about the RICE method?” Well interestingly, the doctor who coined the term RICE, which is an acronym for the healing prescription of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, was Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Dr. Mirkin came up with that clever term nearly 40 years ago, however today he acknowledges that both rest and ice should be limited, although not eliminated, as part of injury recovery with more emphasis placed on active recovery.

And when you have intense soreness from exercise, you’re not necessarily “injured”, but simply suffering from tiny tears in your muscles tissue, also known as micro traumas. Many athletes not only ice injuries, but will use icing methods, sometimes quite outlandish methods, in the quest to speed up post-workout recovery. Today it is well known that these cryotherapies are effective at numbing pain with little clinical proof of any other restorative benefit.

An ice bath is a terrifying experience for the uninitiated and will certainly be very stimulating, but will probably not stimulate your recovery. So maybe skip it unless it’s something you really enjoy!

Any time we have any injury we look for ways to proactively aide recovery. Are you really doing any harm by icing an injury? Likely not, however you may be doing more to “retro-deactivate” your healing so maybe save the bags of ice for your post-workout smoothie instead.

Posted on July 14, 2016 .

Get Your Recovery Moving

Whether you’re talking about recovery from an injury or just from a hard day’s training, your body needs downtime in order to repair damage and restore muscles. This is common sense. Unfortunately, as so often is the case, common sense can be taken too far. You see, too much downtime is not a good thing. In fact, when it comes to healing, it can do the opposite of its intended purpose: all that rest could be causing a setback in your recovery.

First of all, we should point out that we’re not suggesting that an injury needs no rest, nor are we saying that after a tough workout you should resume your regular training without time off. What we are saying is that you should think of the time after an injury, or the moment after heavy training has finished as the beginning of recovery and that it may be a mistake to abstain from physical activity for too long.

Indeed, staying immobile can be very detrimental to healing. Prolonged inactivity post injury will cause your muscles to atrophy, make your joints stiff, and negatively affect your range of motion. And you’re not doing yourself any favors by long periods of crashing on a sofa after a hard workout either. Muscle soreness will set in due to inflammation and acid buildup that could otherwise be minimized simply by moving your body a bit. Additionally, remaining inactive for too long may eventually lead to depressed moods, which can only negatively affect your physical ability to heal as well as your mental ability to keep motivated

Harold & Ethel had very different philosophies for their post training recovery

Harold & Ethel had very different philosophies for their post training recovery

Your body is a complex machine with all sorts of built-in processes. Physical activity is essential to keep these mechanisms running optimally. And whether it’s simply walking, jogging, swimming, etc., any kind of physical activity will be beneficial to recovery. In fact, just the simple act of inhaling and exhaling stimulates circulation, digestion and other vital bodily systems. So you can see how just increasing your rate of breathing can increase your rate of recuperation.

Active recovery is not the same thing as rehabilitation. Rehab is about employing targeted exercises to redevelop your injured area and should be overseen by a professional, while active recovery is finding safe ways to keep the body moving to help your body heal, which can be done on your own. Basic exercise can even enhance any rehab you undergo too.

...get off the sofa, get outside, get to the gym and just get moving.
Your body will thank you and you’ll feel a lot better, a lot sooner.


Of course, depending on the severity of an injury, you’re going to have to modify your usual training regimen. The last thing you want to do when you’re down and out is aggravate any damage or reinjure yourself. You may need to simply drop the intensity for a bit, or you may need to completely change things up with low impact movements for a while. Likewise, for post-workout recovery you’ll want to lower the volume and do different things from what beat you up in the first place. Either way, try to introduce a variety of loading exercises to use as many muscles as possible. Pace yourself and progress safely.

If you have access to a swimming pool you’re in great luck. There’s a myriad of activities you can do in a pool that are effective in getting the heart pounding without your body taking a pounding. Swimming is great exercise anytime and can be as challenging as you need it to be. And if you need to take it easy on a specific area you can find easy ways to move in a pool that allow you to rest certain body parts. Float around and just use your arms to move or maybe walk some laps and keep your upper body immobile. In the end, just being submerged in water is very soothing mentally and physically.

Something important to pay attention to in any kind of recovery is regaining range of motion. This doesn’t mean performing static stretches. By moving your limbs and torso gradually through a full range of motion you’re encouraging more blood flowing through those bodily tissues, which in turn flushes out bad stuff, brings in good stuff, and keeps muscles from getting stiff.

Yes, it goes somewhat against common sense to think that the best way to heal an injury is to actively move, but as many studies show, indeed, low intensity activity for a moderate amount of time helps speed up recovery. So forget the ice bath, heating pads, and ointments… get off the sofa, get outside, get to the gym and just get moving. Your body will thank you and you’ll feel a lot better, a lot sooner.

Posted on July 20, 2015 .

Bananas = Fight Fuel

Nature is amazing. Take the simple banana as an example. Bananas are fortified with nutrients, packed with energy and come prepackaged in handy sets of 3, 6 or even 9. They’re a perfect snack, especially for athletes.

If you compare bananas to your average carb-laden sports drink, bananas come out far ahead in antioxidant, fiber, vitamin and mineral content. The natural sugar of bananas is also healthier than that of flavored sports drinks. And, let’s face it, bananas are a far better value overall. 

Need help sleeping? Peel a banana for a good dose of magnesium and potassium, which will relax your muscles and help you get a deeper sleep. Bananas will also help cool your core temperature, which in turn will trigger sleep sensors.

Posted on April 1, 2015 .

Sleep, The Other Kind of Fuel

You exercise regularly and eat right in order to stay fit and perform at your peak, but you'll never reach your fitness goals unless you're also giving ‘the machine’ plenty of time to recover with sleep. In fact, your diet, exercise and sleep are all dynamically tied to one another. If you eat poorly your workouts and sleep will suffer; if you’re inactive your sleep and metabolism won’t be optimal; and yes, if you don’t get sufficient sleep expect to suck wind and just generally suck at everything. 

Sleep is a critical component for your overall well-being, physically and mentally. As a fighter, you need it to repair post-workout tissue damage, but you'll also enjoy a more efficient metabolism, better hormone balance, and acuter (sure, that’s a word) mental sharpness. As many as one in three adults get six or less hours of sleep every night and and a survey revealed that some two-thirds of Americans report occasional sleeping problems like insomnia or snoring. And any lack of good, adequate sleep could dilute your efforts at being awesome.

Posted on August 20, 2014 .

Chocolate Milk is MUSCLE Milk

Isn’t it just superb when you find out that something you already love is really good for you? Oh, chocolate milk, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

First of all, let’s not confuse things. Chocolate milk is an indulgence. It’s full of calories and a certain level of fat, depending upon the fat content of the milk used. And if milk causes you to feel bloated, crampy or gassy you may be lactose intolerant and you should go read about water instead.

There is new research suggesting that good old chocolate milk is superior for muscle recovery and replenishment than your average sports drink. Your muscles break down after exercise and the tissues need to rebuild and the stores of glycogen energy need to refill so you’re ready for more activity.

Posted on August 13, 2014 .