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The Importance of Being Earnest (with your limitations)

by Emily Gindle » on Dec 10, 2010 0

Let’s admit it: Fivefingers wearers are a radical bunch. It comes with the territory, really. If we’re willing to try these crazy things on our feet (at the expense of getting toes stepped on and getting called names like frog foot, gorilla foot, or just creepy), we’re willing to try all sorts of things. Like CrossFit. Or doing a series of front squats for the first time with over half your body weight, which I should have known would be a bad idea.

So in the aftermath of this bad decision, I thought I would dedicate this post on recovering from overtraining. I figured it might be relevant to other Fivefingers devotees who come home with vice grips on their calves or spasming quadriceps. Because let’s face it: we’re a crowd that, once deciding to do something, goes all the way, and sometimes it turns out to be just a few miles too far from home.

First step: stop when your body tells you to. If there’s one thing Fivefingers have helped me figure out (this front squat instance aside) it’s how to moderate my activity to what my feet and knees and musculature can handle. Running was always kind of a grueling endeavor until I ditched my timer and just started running in a way that felt easy for my body. “Easy” turns into “efficient” and “fast” pretty quickly if you let your body guide you.

Communication between body and brain breaks down when you let your ego govern that process. When you put too much stock in the clock or the weight that you think you should be able to move, you stop listening. In the third set my quads told me to switch to a lighter weight, but I really wanted to finish the workout the way I started. It was this decision that left my knees buckling the next day every time I went to squat or sit down.

So if you push it too hard anyway, keep limber afterward. Don’t over-stretch damaged muscles; just keep moving. When you’re training muscles with strenuous loading, you’re actually tearing muscle fibers that you body then has to mend with scar tissue. Stretching muscles that are torn up just makes those repairs harder and slower. But keeping some gentle movement going will help flush blood into the muscles and help flush lactic acid out.

Drink lots of water, eat lots of protein. It’s no secret that your body functions best when it’s hydrated, and it needs proteins to rebuild muscle tissue. If protein isn’t available from your diet after a workout, your body will cannibalize it out of other tissues. So chow down on chicken, quinoa, spinach, and almonds. Ideally you should replace some proteins and carbohydrates (meaning vegetables and fruit here, not pasta) within a half hour of a workout, and continue to fuel up as your muscle rebuilds throughout the day.

Keep the muscles warm. There was never a better excuse for reading a book in a hot bath. Heat increases circulation, which will get more proteins in and more lactic acid out of the muscles.

Massage sore muscles, but not right away. When your body is still in the early stages of building scar tissue, massage will break up its efforts. A day or two after a muscle-crushing workout, however, massage can be very beneficial. Scar tissue tends to form in this tangled mess around those long smooth muscle fibers, and massage can help realign that tissue along the muscle, as well as make it more elastic so it functions more like muscle fibers do.

And of course, it’s important to rest. Lots of studies are showing that our bodies benefit best from short periods of intense exercise followed by long recoveries. So relax. Wait until your muscles are fully functioning again to throw yourself into another workout. And get a full eight hours of sleep: your body uses this time to produce human growth hormones and replenish glycogen in the muscles, both of which are necessary for making you stronger and more energetic.

Getting in some quality recovery will make you even more prepared for the next challenge, and if there’s one thing about Fivefingers folks, they’re always up for a challenge.

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