What’s the latest?
With the average gym goer increasingly savvy when it comes to fitness, it’s perhaps no surprise that an emphasis on active recovery is the latest trend. A decade of embracing an extreme approach to exercise has left gym bunnies weary and ready to scale back for supercharged results. Conversation in the changing rooms of London’s coolest boutique studios is changing: the new mantra being whispered is ‘rest harder’.
Tell us more…
Josh Silverman, Head of Education at Third Space, believes a focus on recovery is long overdue. “People are starting to understand that positive changes in body composition and performance rely hugely on a well-developed recovery and regeneration routine,” he says. It may sound obvious, but your recovery tactics are as important as your training. If you care about your fitness, want to see results and lower your risk of injury, a cursory minute long cool-down just won’t cut it. Without sufficient stretching, over time our muscles shorten, we lose flexibility and efficient blood flow (which affects our energy and mood) and puts stress on otherwise healthy muscles and joints. But there’s more to your rest day than hunkering down with a box set. “It’s all about active recovery to get rid of lactic acid in the body. The gold standard of recovery includes mobility exercises, yoga, swimming and light cycling,” explains Silverman.
How about foam rolling?
Forget everything you’ve been told – the humble foam roller is pretty useless when it comes to recovery. If anything, it should be used pre-workout to prime the body, explains Silverman, as it can help to promote blood flow and ‘wake up’ muscles. The only exception is the game-changing TheraGun, a deep-tissue massage device akin to a fast-moving, targeted foam roller. Until earlier this year, the tool was reserved for athletes and physios but recently hit UK shelves. That said, the device will set you back a whopping £550.
Do more extreme recovery methods really work?
Chic flotation tank studios, infrared saunas and cryotherapy chambers may have the cool factor on Instagram but these more outlandish recovery strategies aren’t worth the hype or the money, unless you’re a professional athlete. For us mere mortals, you’re better off hitting the pillow, says Anthony Fletcher, London’s leading biomechanics coach. “Sleep is hugely underrated when it comes to recovery. The average gym goer should spend at least 49 hours a week recovering through sleep alone, equivalent to seven hours per night. If everyone slept optimally then other recovery hacks wouldn’t even be necessary,” he enthuses. “Get the basics right with stretching, maybe some yoga and plenty of sleep, and the add-ons are the icing on the recovery cake,” he says.
When should you dedicate more time to recovery?
If you’re increasingly finding your workouts are draining your energy instead of boosting it, then it’s pretty likely you could benefit from scaling back. Other signs include feeling tired and lethargic throughout the day; feeling irritable; persisting aches and pains in the joints; and a lack of appetite.
Where can you get a helping hand?
Over in the US – a strong purveyor of fitness trends – active recovery and assisted stretching classes are the fastest growing category on ClassPass. Peak self-care it may be, but recovery has received the boutique fitness makeover and nowhere more so than in London. SL favourites include TenStretch at Ten Health & Fitness, London’s only reformer-based stretch class; Stretch at DEFINE London, a 30-minute session that claims to supercharge recovery in double time; and Equinox’s Best Stretch Ever, an active regeneration class that releases tight trigger points and boosts blood flow.
For those less enthused by the idea of a stretching session, keep an eye out for the launch of Flexology, London’s first studio dedicated solely to recovery, opening imminently in Canary Wharf.
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