How to Prep Your Body for Tomorrow
Recovery is the most important part of any training or exercise program, because it allows your body to heal itself and become stronger ahead of your next intense training session. Even those who are not athletes need to allow their bodies time to recover from the stressors of everyday life; sitting for long hours at work or in the car, wrangling kids and pets, or those countless trips up and down the stairs to fetch laundry and grocery bags. At night, when our body clocks are winding down, our email notifications are (should be!) turned off and we are turning our attention towards relaxation, we can focus on helping our minds and bodies to recover ahead of another strenuous day of work or play. Here are several ways to do it.
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
It can’t be said enough. The most important recovery tool available to us is sleep, and yet many Americans routinely fall short of the seven to nine hours per night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Without adequate sleep, levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise, the production of growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair, is reduced and the immune system becomes less efficient. Lack of sleep also leads to poor cognition and decreased motor control, which increases risk of injury.
Turn Down the Lights
So many Americans are attached to technology, checking emails, news or social media on phones or tablets or watching television late into the night. But, the blue light emitted from all of those screens tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, and therefore time to be awake. This reduces your natural levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, rather than increasing them as necessary before sleep. Starting one hour before bed, try stepping away from the light and instead reading a book, meditating, doing a puzzle or just chatting with a friend. These activities will all reduce your resting heart rate and better prepare you for bed, allowing you to get the rest and recovery you need.
Easy on the Food and Drink
While it may be tempting to reach for a midnight snack or a nightcap, eating or drinking too close to bed time can interfere with your sleep, which is essential for your recovery. Large meals elevate your resting heart rate and speed up your metabolism, which will inhibit your ability to fall asleep. And while the sedative properties of alcohol can help you relax and fall asleep, it actually decreases your ability to get enough REM sleep, during which the brain is recharged. Drinking alcohol before bed can also create an imbalance in your sleep stages, cause more frequent wake-ups and lead to excessive sleepiness the next day.
Try Using a Foam Roller or Massage Gun
Using a foam roller or massage gun on fatigued or sore muscles before bed is a great way to down-regulate the nervous system while releasing tension in the muscles so you can literally fall into bed. Foam-rolling and massage also keeps the fascia – the connective tissue between the muscles – pliable and hydrated, and improves circulation, which helps oxygenate the blood, flush toxins from the system and reduce inflammation. Breathe slowly and deeply into sticky spots as you hit them with the roller or massage gun; in addition to helping your muscles release, it will calm your nervous system and your mind.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
Increasing body temperature, then rapidly decreasing it by going into a temperature-controlled bedroom (65 degrees is optimal for sleep) helps to induce sleep. We typically fall sleep when the rate of temperature change and body heat loss is at its maximum. Additionally, the hot shower will dilate your blood vessels, increasing blood flow to and relaxing the muscles. If hot baths are your thing, try adding several cups of Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate. The magnesium is absorbed through the skin, relaxing muscles and facilitating sleep.
Try a Nighttime Recovery Supplement
If you have a hard time falling and staying asleep, nighttime recovery supplements can help. Just a few milligrams of melatonin can help in both areas. Kore Sleep, which contains melatonin, amino acids 5-HTP, L-theanine and GABA, along with relaxant herbs valerian, lemon balm and hops, can help you relax, fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed.* Kore Night Recovery Stickpacks also contain melatonin, GABA and L-theanine, but additionally contain UC-II®, a patented Type II Collagen that promotes joint recovery, joint health and mobility after a hard day of work and play.*
Be Mindful in the Morning
Getting up at the same time every day is essential to establishing a sleep pattern that will help you get the rest you need. It takes just two days to disrupt your sleep routine, so sleeping in on the weekends will put you at a disadvantage for the coming week. If you have a hard time waking up, get a morning dose of sunshine as soon as possible. Our body’s internal clock is sensitive to light, so opening the curtains or drinking your morning coffee on a sunny porch are perfect ways to kick-start your day or boost energy ahead of a morning workout.