Hi, my name is Gary Reinl. I am a long distance runner (50 plus years; logged more than 50,000 miles), and the author of ‘ICED!’. And, I am a passionate member of the ALTRA club.
In “real” life I work with many professional and other elite athletes and their trainers, therapists and doctors and represent a muscle recovery device called MARC PRO. I have been doing this type of work for more than 40 years. That said, this blog post isn’t about me. Instead, it’s about you and your relationship with ice and your ability to recover after a hard workout. If you don’t use ice, you will likely find the following, at the least, interesting. If you do use ice, read carefully and feel welcome to contact me with questions, comments, etc.
Have you heard that the godfather of the ice age (Gabe Mirkin, MD) has publicly, and repeatedly, recanted his recommendation to ice damaged tissue? Below is a direct quote from Dr. Mirkin in the second edition of my book, ‘ICED! The Illusionary Treatment Option’:
So if you shouldn’t ice, what should you do?
Active recovery is a recovery technique that relies on a specific type of rhythmic muscle activation to expedite the movement of nourishment and waste. Passive or inactive recovery is, well, passive. Both ways work. If you do nothing (e.g. sit back, relax, and wait), you will, if you are otherwise healthy, eventually recover. If you do something (e.g. the proper amount and type of muscle activation), you will, assuming all else is equal, also eventually recover. That said, the main differences between the two recovery techniques are not measured by the “end” result. Instead, the focus of the comparison is the difference in how you feel during the recovery process and how long it takes to fully recover.
Consider this. Have you ever finished a race or hard training session and immediately entered a crammed space such as a car, bus, train, or plane and remained there for several hours? Yes or no, the result is always the same: your muscles will feel more tired andor sore at the end of your trip than they did at the beginning.
Why? Simply put, remaining virtually motionless in a crammed space for several hours post-exertion (ultra-passive recovery) stifles the flow of nourishment and waste. Net result: you feel worse.
Want a better outcome? Before you get into that dreaded crammed space, spend about twenty minutes doing, with less intensity, whatever you did to get tired and or sore. Then, once per hour for at least 10 minutes or so, get up and move all of your tired and or sore muscles (active recovery).
Too Much or Too Little of a Good Thing
It is very important to avoid over activating your tired and or sore muscles. Doing so will actually prevent recovery and could easily lead to an overuse injury. Conversely, if you under-activate your tired or sore muscles, you will marginalize the potential related benefits. Either way, you lose.
So, what is the key to finding the sweet spot between too much and too little? Always remember that this is a recovery technique, not a training technique. Thus, if your quads are tired or sore from running, go for an easy jog. Likewise, if your glutes are tired or sore from cycling, go for an easy ride. And so on. Never do anything that hurts. Focus your effort on activating the muscles in need of recovery (e.g. if you activate the muscles in your left foot, it won’t help the muscles in your right hand). And always . . . always, expend the least possible amount of energy to achieve the desired result . . . don’t waste energy!
The goal is to appropriately activate your tired or sore muscles until the desired result is achieved. Sounds good, but . . . you just finished and you do not have the desire to jog or go for a light ride or perhaps even stand upright. Besides, your knee and hip are bothering you and you know from experience that “stressing” those joints under those conditions just noted is categorically a misguided and potentially injurious idea. Similarly, if your traps and lower back muscles need “activation,” jogging or going for a light ride are, once again, not a viable option. Why? Jogging and cycling do not provide the needed rhythmic muscle activation. In fact, those activities usually create more trap and lower back tiredness and/or soreness, not less.
So, what’s the best recovery technique? That’s easy. Use a high-end powered muscle stimulation device to activate your tired and/or sore muscles until the desired result is achieved. There are many of them out there, but I recommend the MARC PRO® to all of my clients . . . it’s easy to use, feels good, and works great.
If you still want more information, In my book “ICED!”, there is a whole chapter regarding proper recovery.
If you find all of this a little hard to believe . . . you are not alone. On the other hand, if you “get it” . . . you are also not alone (a soft estimate is that more than 1,000,000 people have joined the “anti-ice” movement).