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The Essential Guide to Sports Recovery: What to Wear and Why It Matters

Published June 17, 2024

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SPORTS RECOVERY: WHAT TO WEAR AND WHY IT MATTERS

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SPORTS RECOVERY: WHAT TO WEAR AND WHY IT MATTERS

Physical activity is essential to living a healthy and exciting life.

Regular exercise keeps you in shape, improves your mental health, and encourages other healthy habits, like practicing proper hydration and sleep hygiene. But to reach peak performance levels, you need something that may at first seem counterintuitive: rest.

Proper rest and recovery are essential to improving your athletic performance, increasing strength, and cultivating a positive mindset. In order to go all out, sometimes, you need to take it slow.

But how can you minimize recovery time while maximizing its effects? Your clothing may hold the answer.

SPORTS RECOVERY: AN ESSENTIAL PART OF A HEALTHY FITNESS SCHEDULE

Everyone wants to know how to make the most out of their workouts—the best times to exercise, the perfect balance of cardio and strength training, the nutrition tricks to to boost your performance—the list goes on.

But one trend that doesn’t get nearly enough love is sports recovery.

Recovery, when used intentionally, can enhance the effects of regular exercise while helping to prevent both burnout and injury. After all, real improvement doesn’t happen during your workout itself; it only happens once you rest.

Sports recovery involves more than taking a day off from working out, though that can be an important part of the process. Basically, recovery can fall into either of these categories:

  • Passive recovery – This is when you stay completely inactive and at rest. Passive recovery is best for healing extreme muscle fatigue or if you’ve suffered an injury.

  • Active recovery – This involves light activity that you wouldn’t normally do during regular workout days. Active recovery is proven to reduce general muscle soreness and increase joint flexibility and circulation.

To maximize your recovery benefits, you’ll need to incorporate a mix of both active and passive recovery strategies into your training schedule.

THE DANGERS OF OVERTRAINING

Exercise recovery time is time well spent.

Each time you exercise, you create tiny tears in your muscle tissue, which is why you often feel sore after a workout. The tears themselves are nothing to worry about—they’re what help you improve your overall strength and performance.

But in order to grow, your muscles need to heal—and in order to heal, they need rest.

Overtraining puts constant strain on fatigued and damaged muscles, leaving no time for proper muscle repair. If left unchecked, overtraining can cause:

  • Hormone imbalances, particularly in cortisol (stress hormone) and growth hormone.

  • Lowered immune responses.

  • Muscle damage causing decreased strength and endurance.

  • Poor mental health. 

While the effects of overtraining are serious, they’re easily avoidable with some quality exercise recovery strategies.  

There are many popular recovery strategies to prevent overtraining, but the one currently getting the most buzz? Recovery wear.  

WHAT IS RECOVERY WEAR?

Recovery wear isn’t the outfit you throw on for a couch day (although we do love our sweats and baggy tees). Instead, it’s a specific type of compression wear designed to speed up your body’s natural recovery process.

You can find compression garments for pretty much any part of your body, but they’re most commonly used to target muscles and joints in the arms and legs. Some popular compression garments include:

  • Individual arm and leg sleeves.

  • Long and short sleeve tops.

  • Tights and shorts.

  • Knee sleeves.

  • Socks.

Recovery wear supporters say compression garments have a lot to offer. Some of the main benefits of compression wear include:

  • Reduced muscle soreness and pain.

  • Faster muscle recovery.

  • Reduced inflammation and swelling.

  • Improved blood flow and cellular waste removal.

And of course, they produce a gentle squeezing sensation that many find comforting.

While you might assume that recovery wear is only meant for post-workout use (it does have “recovery” in the name, after all) it can actually help to wear it during your workouts as well.

Some research shows that when worn while exercising, compression garments can:

  • Improve running economy (the amount of oxygen needed to run).

  • Reduce muscle oscillations, in turn reducing muscle fatigue and damage.  

But how can simple compression produce so many incredible healing effects? Researchers and sports science experts are still trying to figure it out.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND COMPRESSION GEAR

If you’re an active person, you’ve probably heard of the R.I.C.E. recovery method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  

While R.I.C.E. is typically used to heal acute injuries like ankle and wrist sprains, the reasoning behind it can benefit general sports recovery strategies, like wearing compression gear.  

Compression is thought to promote blood flow, which allows more nutrients to reach the compressed area and more waste to be taken away, decreasing inflammation and swelling.  

Both physical and psychological factors contribute to compression garments’ effectiveness. Many people report less muscle fatigue and faster recovery times after using compression wear. For some, it may act more as a placebo, research shows. If you believe it will help you recover faster, it may well do so.  

While athletes and highly active people swear by it, there are still many unknowns when it comes to compression wear. In fact, there is little consensus on several key components, including: 

  • The optimal compression strength for recovery.

  • How long you should wear compression garments for.

  • Which body parts benefit most from compression. 

One thing is for certain: compression garments can’t hinder your recovery. However, more research needs to be done to fully explore compression gear’s positive effects and how it works.

ADDITIONAL RECOVERY DOS AND DON'TS

When it comes to proper recovery, don’t stop at compression wear.

To fully optimize your recovery time, you should maintain healthy habits that are proven to restore your energy levels and heal your body inside and out.

EFFECTIVE ACTIVE RECOVERY METHODS

Active recovery is one of the best ways to move your body while allowing it to recover from an intense workout. But how can you properly manage the delicate balance between activity and rest?

Here are just a few of the many restorative activities you can do to make the most of an active recovery day:

  • Self-massage – While a massage may sound indulgent, it can actually help loosen tight muscles and stimulate healing blood flow. You can use your hands, or try a foam roller that will offer a little more pressure. No matter what massage technique you choose, your muscles will be sure to thank you for the TLC.  

  • Light cardio exercises – The main goals of active recovery are to promote circulation and lower inflammation and stress. Light cardio activities like walking, swimming, and biking can all gently elevate your heart rate and get your blood flowing to sore muscles. Remember not to push yourself too hard, or for too long. The aim isn’t to wear yourself out, but to build yourself back up.  

  • Mobility activities – After an intense workout, you may feel stiff in your muscles and joints. It’s important to work on restoring mobility and flexibility to improve performance and prevent any injuries. Tai chi, yoga, and pilates are all great activities that engage your full range of motion without putting too much strain on tired joints.  

There’s no one-size-fits-all active recovery strategy. Just remember to switch up your normal exercise routines, and always take it easy.

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

Intense physical activity requires a lot of energy—and a lot of fluids.

Sweating is an essential part of exercise. It cools you down and expels waste products from your body. But with each hour of intense exercise, your body can lose up to three quarts (almost 3 litres) of fluid. The importance of hydration cannot be understated when it comes to recovery and maintaining your training program.

Proper hydration will help:

  • Protect your joints, increasing your athletic performance.

  • Ensure proper heart and muscle function.

  • Improve your mood and help you focus.

It’s recommended that you drink six to twelve ounces of water for every twenty minutes of intense activity. And to replace the salt you lose, look for sports drinks that include electrolytes.

THE HEALING POWER OF SLEEP

Much of the muscle recovery process happens while you sleep—so you need to get a lot of it.

Sleeping less may give you more time to exercise, but it won’t help you improve your performance in the long run. In fact, sleep deprivation is linked to:

  • Lack of energy and focus.

  • Poorer physical performance.

  • Hormone imbalances.

  • Increased risk of fitness injury.

For some people, sleeping well is easier said than done. If you struggle to catch those Zs, follow some of these tried and true sleep hygiene tips:

  • Avoid screen exposure, including phones, TVs, and computers, a few hours before bed.

  • Create a dark, quiet, and comfortable sleep environment.

  • Stick to an easy bedtime routine.

Finally, always listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel tired, it probably means you are. Instead of pushing through, let your body recover—and come back stronger the next day.

PERFORMANCE WEAR FROM P.E NATION: REST AND RESTORE

Whether you’re a marathon runner, a seasoned strength trainer, or prefer high-intensity workouts, proper recovery is an absolute must. Recover your way with high-quality performance wear that brings out your unique sense of style.

P.E Nation has you covered with women’s workout shirts, workout crop tops, and gym leggings, perfect for both active and passive recovery days. And when you’re ready to hit the gym again, throw on one of our workout sets to feel instantly in the zone.

Shop the collection now, and be sure to check out our blog for essential style guides and advice on putting together gym outfits.

 

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