I’ve been an active person my entire life. If it wasn’t a recreational sport, it was dance; if it’s not dancing, it’s usually another form of movement, whether Yoga, functional training, or cycling. The pressure to start taking care of my body came in my late twenties as I was teaching anywhere from 8-14 cycling classes a week, sometimes with no days off for two weeks. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have even caught some of the ways I recover there and may have even been skeptical or left confused about how I choose to recover. I’m sharing to give more insight and information about certain self-care practices I have tried and why I recommend them. I am simply sharing for understanding, not to tell others what to do.
As someone who works out most days of the week doing cardio, indoor cycling, functional training, or Yoga, I must foam roll. I aim to do it every day after I workout or at the end of the day, but I do fall short some days. (I’m not perfect, lol) Foam rolling is an excellent way to either warm up or cool down. I do it mainly after my workouts to get blood flow to the muscles involved that day and help those areas recover faster. I recommend this to pretty much anyone who works out. It’s handy to have around. Below is a link to some excellent information from a professional on what foam rolling is doing, why it shouldn’t hurt, and why foam rolling the IT band isn’t that useful(mainly because it hurts and is not doing much) https://www.self.com/story/what-foam-rolling-is-actually-doing-when-it-hurts-so-good
Yin Yoga or Stretching
This one is my favorite because all you need is you! For those don’t who don’t know, I got certified in Yin Yoga in 2020 after quitting my job amid a pandemic, and I was already doing virtual deep stretch classes before I decided to go for Yin Yoga training. If there is anything you can’t make an excuse for, incorporating yin yoga or basic stretching is it. I’m specifying Yin Yoga because of its principles compared to other styles of Yoga that are more popular yang styles.
The goal is to bring yin (cool energy) to the body. This practice includes passive stretching that requires you to slow down and relax the muscles instead of engaging them. Our primary focus is getting a deep stretch focusing on our fascia, ligaments, and tendons. It requires you to be with your body and thoughts and find stillness, and stillness is harder to achieve than most think. We learn our little quirks as we work towards finding ourselves in a state of meditation and learning to be and exist in each asana.
If Yin Yoga sounds like something you may not be interested in, I still am a huge advocate of getting a good stretch. You can focus on specific areas you use or go for a full-body session if you have the time. I believe stretching is a way to thank your body for getting through the day, getting you through that workout, or simply a way to open up the areas we forget about when sitting at our desks or on our phones most of the day. I feel stretching should be a part of everyone’s daily routine for simple connection and gratitude towards our body.
If you have the funds to go and treat yourself, I always encourage massage as a part of self-care and self-love. For those of us who are a bit more active than most, it’s a great idea to implement massage as a part of your body’s recovery. I only suggest that you assess what style of massage might be best for you. I tend to go for deep tissue, sports, or trigger point massage. I must address overworked muscles and any knots for how hard my body works. Sometimes that requires a slightly more intense massage. So if you’ve been thinking about it, go and get yourself a nice relaxing or even energizing massage. You deserve it.
Cupping is a technique based on Ancient Chinese medicine used to bring blood circulation to areas where muscles are tight. It is also helpful with overall blood flow and cell repair. I get it done occasionally, usually on my upper back and shoulders. I think it’s an excellent technique for all the athletes and gym rats to add to your recovery regimen if you can afford to.
Usually, before cupping, my therapist does the Graston technique on problematic areas. This technique includes a metal scraping tool (different sizes and shapes based on the location of the body)that is used atop the skin to help break down scar tissue and mobilize soft tissue. It sounds and even looks intense, but it’s not that bad. Depending on the area(some areas like the Achilles are slightly more sensitive than other parts of the body) and the amount of scar tissue present, it can be a little uncomfortable. Still, I wouldn’t say it’s an intolerable or excruciating pain, and it shouldn’t be. I suggest this to runners, cyclists, and other athletes. The average person probably doesn’t need to do this unless they have an old injury or severe issue and can benefit from it. Like cupping, it will leave temporary bruising behind for a few days. The bruising comes from blood finally being able to circulate better. Fresh blood starts to surface after the scraping tool breaks down the old scar tissue.
I love having the time and money to get a nice facial from my favorite esthetician. It’s a treat for your skin, and I try to do it for myself as much as possible. I do my best to give myself a facial at home once a week. It saves money and is a good way for me to keep up with my skin health between professional facial visits. I have a few sheet masks I like to use, or I go for a clay mask that will serve my skin best. Taking care of your skin is just as important as everything else on your body. Your skin is your largest organ, and it’s visible. So take care of it!
I have a Theragun, and I love it. There are days when foam rolling, stretching, or using my myofascial release balls can’t quite get me feeling the way I want. My Theragun is a fantastic tool to help me get to areas of the body that may be sore or tight and help me increase my range of motion in those areas. It’s great for those who can’t afford massages frequently. You can address tight muscles, knots, and sore muscles on your own, right at home.