July 17, 2015

Recovery 2.0

I've posted before about recovery, but in this last week before my biggest race of the season I'm trying to take it to the next level. There's not much more to be gained in the fitness department at this point, except by allowing my body to absorb as much accumulated fatigue as possible. Maybe I'm grasping at straws a bit, but I can use all the help I can get. So here are a few of the things I've been up to lately to try to squeeze every drop of benefit from the training and racing I've been able to do.

You thought golf attire was dorky? I've upped the ante with this mini-golf get-up, post-Tremblant 5150. Behold, the compression calf sleeves. Really, is there anything more alluring than legwear that says "I could have picked up some compression stockings at Rexall, but then I'd look like an old person and besides these cost 3 times as much so must be better"?

Tiger Woods, eat your heart out

Let's talk next about the trigger point foam roller. We've had a turbulent, on-again off-again relationship. Since my piriformis injury last month, we've become cautiously re-acquainted. To add a little spice to the relationship, I've introduced a 3rd partner... the tennis ball. As recommended by my physio, the humble tennis ball -- when rolled beneath your glutes with the weight of your body on it -- can become a device of both torture and relief. (Sidenote... I think when blogging about tennis balls starts to sound steamy, it means I need to get out more. Maybe put on a dress or something. But I digress.)

Tennis ball absent, missing in action since I last saw my youngest kid playing with it

Moving on to the Epsom salt bath... I've heard all kinds of great things about this longstanding remedy to muscle soreness. I've had people ask me how it works. I usually manage an answer like "It draws the stuff that makes your muscles sore, out of your muscles." I really need to knock the rust off my undergrad biology so I can sound a little more convincing. I added about 10 drops of lavender essential oil to a cup of salts, and gave it a shot the other evening. Verdict? I think I felt a little better afterward... and really, having a warm bath doesn't suck. So I'll call it a win.

4 kg of Epsom salt. If all else fails, I can do curls with it.

By far the coolest (literally and figuratively) thing I've tried for recovery is the Cryo-Cabin. If it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie -- well, that's what it looks like too. Complete with nitrogen vapour rising out of it like Han Solo's carbonite prison. Are you kidding me? Who would pass that up! Apart from claustrophobics. Or people who don't like getting cold. Behold, the Enclosure of Doom:

"I love you!"... "I know."

Yes, I'm naked in there. And yep, you read that temperature gauge right... -145 degrees. You step in, wearing a couple of pairs of socks -- presumably so your feet don't freeze solid to the platform and necessitate an awkward call to the fire department. The technician adjusts the platform height so you're roughly up to your neck in the tank, with your head sticking out. You're asked to keep your hands out of the tank, as "they get cold pretty fast" -- I didn't argue, figuring this was an appropriate occasion to just do what I was told. The tank uses liquid nitrogen to cool the chamber, shooting frequent jets of vapour at you over the course of the 2.5-minute treatment. One of the techs asked me to turn 90 degrees every 15 seconds, so my body didn't get blasted in the same spot the whole time. I felt kind of like a rotisserie chicken... if the purpose was to freeze the chicken rather than cook it. I felt my skin get very cold, then really stopped feeling much of anything. When it was time to get out, I was a little hesitant to touch my skin, recalling demonstrations where someone gleefully shattered all manner of objects after they emerged from a nitrogen bath. In actuality, I'd say the sensation was pretty close to that feeling you get on your legs when it's -30, you've been skating on the Canal with a good north wind ripping through, and you neglected to wear long underwear. Except in that case, you're on the hook for way longer than 2.5 minutes since you need to be there at least as long as it takes to get your kids a Beavertail. When I emerged, people excitedly asked how I felt. Well, for the first few minutes I didn't really feel anything due to the numbness... which was an improvement over the slight achy-ness I went in with. Once feeling returned, I'd say I still felt pretty good for about 20 minutes before some of the soreness crept back. And getting thrown in a freezer on a hot day did feel invigorating. Would I do it again? Well, this was a one-time free trial at the grand opening event. I can't really see paying $40 a pop for 2.5 minutes of super-chilled nudity. Neat to try it, though.

Another key element of recovery is sleep, and general rest. I read somewhere that for optimal recovery, if you're standing, sit. If you're sitting, lie down. If you're lying down, get some sleep. What?? Yeah!! All this talk about being too sedentary and the perils of sitting around all day... ha! I'm sure there are dissenting studies -- like those I choose to ignore that say red wine isn't really good for you -- but I'm going to go with the idea that putting my feet up and binging on Netflix makes me a better athlete. 

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