Here are some recommendations from sports literature about how to improve your recovery after workouts. Some of these are obvious, and yet I frequently need to be smacked upside the head to be reminded to do a better job.
- Drink plenty of fluids. When you exercise, you sweat. Your body needs to be replenished. During extended workouts, start drinking early and regularly (don’t wait until you are thirsty).
- Eat healthily and soon after work outs. Again, after an extended workout, your body needs to refuel. I have repeatedly read that you should have a good meal of protein and complex carbohydrates soon after hard workouts.
- Rest. Your body needs time to repair and restore, and your body needs more time as you get older. Failing to have proper rest cycles means you could be digging yourself into a fatigue pit.
- Sleep. One of the joys of exercise is that it helps you get a good night's sleep. One of the joys of a good night's sleep is that it helps restore your body, giving you the ability to exercise.
- Avoid Overtraining. For instance, during breaks going on like bike rides, hiking the Billy Goat Trail B with the dogs, and rebuilding a flower bed probably amounts to overtraining. Dramatic alterations in activity level are not sustainable. Changes in exercise levels should be moderate. If you want to do a marathon or bicycle a century, engage in a training program that builds up your strength.
- Cool Down. Finish your work out with a gentle period of exertion. One pro cycling team finishes the race day with 10 minutes of gentle spinning to help the legs warm down.
- Massage. One of the favorite stations on a bicycle tour is the massage stop. A good massage can help restore your muscles.
- Ice Baths. Haven't tried it but professional athletes swear by them.
- Stretch. After a hard work out, engage in gentle stretching of your muscles.
My personal take aways: With age, sports performance decreases and sports recovery time increases. But this doesn’t mean giving up. The health benefits of an active lifestyle are well established - and as one friend said, "It's better than the alternative." Instead, for me, it means being more deliberate with my training, and in particular, making sure I don’t overdo it and find myself in a fatigue pit. By being more deliberate, I can continue hiking the Billy Goat Trail and cycling out the W&OD for a good long time.
- Training for the over 50s, 2Peak
- Lifelong Exercise and Strength Training in Older Adults, Urban Athlete, Jan. 11, 2012
- Effects of age and gender on physical performance, Age (Dordr) NIH. 2007 September; 29(2-3): 77–85
- 7 Recovery Strategies Used by Pro Cyclists, Active
- Ride Hard, Recover Harder, Bicycling