Knowing the right way to exercise or treat an injury makes a difference.
Story: Steven Benedict
We all know exercise is important, but we may not know the importance of other aspects of working out, such as stretching, recovery, and what to eat before and after. Our muscles must be treated right for us to build them up and maintain them. As a professional track athlete training for the 2020 Olympic Games, I have widespread knowledge in exercise, fitness, and health, and offer these helpful and easy tips for the everyday person trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. These tips also may be helpful in preventing injury.
Stretching static vs. dynamic
Static stretching is holding a particular stretch for an extended period. Usually the stretch is held in the range of 30 to 45 seconds or longer. Dynamic stretching is fluidly moving in and out of a stretch with short holds no longer than five to 10 seconds long. Arguments are raised about which one is better or more beneficial. As an athlete, I can tell you when preparing to perform, you want to prime the muscles to get the most power from them. Therefore, dynamic stretching is the way to go for the best results before activity. Post-performance is where you take 15 to 20 minutes to static stretch. This releases any tightness or acid buildup in the system during performance time.
Icing vs. heat recovery
Icing down and moist heat compresses are the most widely used methods for recovery post training and/or injury. The key is knowing which method is for what and why.
Icing tends to involve direct area compresses or ice baths. “Spot icing” also focuses on a specific area, usually for an injured muscle (i.e., a strain, tear, or contusion). An ice bath is for a heavy workload day and recovery. The pros of an ice bath are swelling is brought down and it helps to re-oxygenize blood and muscles. However, after ice baths, your body usually takes an extra 24 hours to recalibrate due to such a drop in temperature internally. Some tightness may occur as well.
Heat compresses and baths, such as moist heating pads, are for spotting areas to loosen tension in those muscles. On the other hand, Epsom salt baths, which are full-body soaks like ice baths, can help tremendously with lactic acid flushing and weight management for performance. This keeps the body flexible and loose. A con for heat compresses and baths is that dehydration can occur if not used properly, which may lead to cramping.
Nutrition pre-workout and post-workout
When planning nutrition for the day, my coaches and most high-performance athletes have one thing in common: most of their nutrition intake is done primarily around the most active time of their days. Samples of some good choices for pre- and post-workout include: oatmeal, granola, fruit, waffles, pancakes, turkey bacon, natural peanut butter, almond butter, eggs, turkey sausage, protein shakes, ground turkey, and ground beef.
Post-training, you want to have two stages. The first is immediately after training and it needs to be fast absorbing. My go-to is some type of high-protein shake that includes a waxy maize, which is a fast-acting carb derived from corn starch. Forty-five minutes later, have a high-protein solid meal. I usually have chicken or fish, with at least 6-8 ounces for men and 4-5 ounces for women. If you are short on time, I highly recommend considering a meal prep company. The company portions meals for you and caters to your specific needs.
In conclusion, when you are most active you need fuel the most, and you can taper off during other parts of your day with smaller meals to keep your metabolism burning. That’s what we want most: keeping it burning at the highest rate for the longest period.
About the writer
Steven Benedict is a professional track athlete and Olympic qualifier, motivational speaker, and published fitness personality. He carries the torch of hope with his latest company, Empowering Movement, impacting all walks of life, especially adopted and abused children, and children fighting disease, through the platform that has saved him—sports.