You’ve just taken the Navy PRT and your muscles feel sore and achy. Here are the best ways to speed up muscle recovery:
Do a cool down exercise straight afterwards
After taking the Navy PRT, do some light exercise to encourage blood flow throughout the entire body. This will prevent blood pooling and ease swelling. Blood pooling is one of the body’s inflammatory responses to exercise. Inflammation prevents further damage from strenuous activity. It reduces the muscle’s ability to do a certain task so that it does not overwork itself and cause irreparable damage. Although inflammation is good at preventing further damage, it can hinder muscle recovery. Inflammation needs to recede before optimal recovery can take place.
Take a light walk for a few minutes after the test to allow the blood to circulate around your body. This helps to increase the amount of blood flow to and from the muscle. An effective cool down exercise can reduce the pain and swelling that is felt the next day by up to 20%.
Keep this exercise very light and low-intensity. Ten to fifteen minutes is all that you need. Walk until your breath becomes slightly heavier and you start to produce a light sweat.
Focus on short-term nutrition and hydration
Your muscles will feel sore because of two reasons: lactic acid and micro tears in the muscle fiber. Lactic acid creates that burning sensation that you feel during exercise. It intensifies as the exercise continues. Oxygen and blood flow is used to eliminate lactic acid from muscle. An effective cool down exercise, heavy breathing and sufficient water intake will help to eliminate lactic acid as soon as possible. Lactic acid should be shuttled out of the body within an hour or so after exercise.
The second reason why muscles feel sore is because of micro tears that occur in the muscle fiber. This is the form of muscle pain that can last for several days, depending on the exercise intensity. The sooner these micro tears heal, the sooner the muscles will recovery. There are two things that muscle fiber needs to recover from strenuous exercise: nutrients and blood flow.
Your body will start the recovery process as soon as the physical activity is completed. It first starts by increasing inflammation to protect itself and then enters into muscle recovery. Give your body the right nutrients that it needs so that it has the building blocks to recover and repair itself. Eat something that contains sugar. The body will use this to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Sugar will help the body to jumpstart the recovery process. The meal should also include protein. Protein contains the building blocks that are needed for muscle fibers to be rebuilt.
Food consumption will help the body to make the switch from inflammation, a response to reduce the amount of damage that physical activity has on the body, to rest and recovery. Increased blood sugar from food will signal to the body that that it does not need to anticipate further activity and can start the recovery process.
A good example would be orange juice and an egg, bread and peanut butter or an apple and a piece of fish.
Static stretching (stretch and hold) exercises are great for easing tension and relaxing the muscle. Because they have a relaxing effect on muscles, static stretches are not recommended before taking the Navy PRT.
Static stretches expand muscle fibers. This allows for the expulsion of old blood and increased receptivity of new, nutrient-dense blood. You can focus on stretching the muscles that hurt the most, or do a full-body stretching routine to relax the entire body.
Elongate the muscle until you feel a light pulling sensation. Hold it for ten to twenty seconds and then release it from the stretch. Do this three times for each muscle.
I would recommend doing these stretches on the night after the test, and then every second day until the muscle is fully recovered.
Alternate between hot and cold
Heat therapy is an effective recovery technique. Heat therapies assist with muscle recovery because of their positive effect on blood flow.
Cold temperatures help to ease inflammation and swelling. They do this by constricting blood flow to a specific area. Constricted blood vessels hold less blood and therefore act against blood pooling – the accumulation of blood that can end up reducing the amount of fresh blood that enters into the muscle. A great way to do this is by placing an ice pack on the affected area.
When you decrease your body’s entire body temperature (like through an ice bath or a cold shower), blood is redirected away from the extremities (arms, legs and skeletal muscle). It is pulled into the core to keep the organs warm and in functioning order. This is a great way to alleviate swelling.
Hot temperatures help to ease tension and stiffness. They do this by opening blood vessels so that more blood can flow into muscle tissue. You can apply a warm compress to help with recovery on a specific muscle, or use a hot bath or shower to ease tension throughout your whole body.
Cold temperatures are great to ease swelling, while warm temperatures work well to ease tension.
Alternating between the two is also a very effective recovery method. Cold therapy will remove old blood from the muscle, while warmth will bring in new blood. You can do this by alternating between a hot and cold shower or bath. Do this for three to four alternations. You want to do it enough for improved blood flow, but not so much that your body spends too much energy on repetitively warming itself up and cooling itself down. This may cost energy that could have been used on muscle recovery.
By giving your body the nutrients that it needs and facilitating optimal blood flow, you can reduce the amount of discomfort felt after the Navy PRT and reduce the amount of time that it takes for the muscles to recover. Remember to do all recovery methods within reason: Too much of anything may start to negatively tax muscle tissue.
About Saguren Redyrs
Saguren is a personal trainer from South Africa who is passionate about making the latest health and fitness research available to everybody. You can read more of his articles on SA Spotters.