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Post-Workout Recovery Tips From Olympian Dara Torres

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    Post-Workout Recovery Tips From Olympian Dara Torres

    Post-Workout Recovery Tips From Olympian Dara Torres

    You’d think Dara Torres would be satisfied. The twelve-time Olympic medalist is one of the country’s top female swimmers-in fact, she’s tied with Jenny Thompson for the most medals ever won by a female US swimmer. But that isn’t enough for her. At 45 years old, Torres attempted to make her sixth Olympic team-and get the chance to end her career on top. While her performance at the 2012 U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials was nothing short of astonishing, a lot has changed since the Torres set the world record in the 50-meter free when she was just 15 years old. And she certainly can’t train the same way she could as a teenager.

    “You’ve got to have perseverance and believe that you can do it,” says Torres, “It’s definitely much harder this time around but I thrive on that. I like having obstacles in my way.” One thing she’s gained with age is the ability to tackle those obstacles in the most efficient way possible. To be so successful for so long, she’s had to master the perfect balance of pushing and resting. Here, Torres shares her stay-young recovery tips to supercharge your fitness routine—whether you’re 15 or 45.

    Get Some Zzz’s
    Most people don’t realize that it’s during sleep when your body rebuilds and recovers, says Rachel Cosgrove, trainer and co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. “You don’t get results from the workouts themselves, you get results from recovering from them, and building up fitter and stronger than before.” Torres agrees: “I get cranky if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep.” To make the most of each minute under the covers, Cosgrove suggests having a nightly bedtime ritual. That can include reading a book, having a cup of tea, and switching off your TV and computer at least an hour before bedtime (the light from the screens tells your brain it’s time to be awake). Torres says it’s worth investing in a comfortable pillow

    Silence Pain
    Soreness from yesterday’s workout shouldn’t be an excuse to skip today’s. Each workout causes microscopic damage to your muscle fibers—a process that sounds scary, but is actually natural; it’s the way your body builds muscle. The problem: You can feel your hard work the day later thanks to an effect known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). As long as soreness doesn’t persist longer than 72 hours, and you don’t feel like you’ve strained something, there are simple tricks to minimize the pain. Most effective? Massage.

    “Massages break up tight muscles, lessen the chance of soreness, and essentially allow your muscles to recover faster,” says Torres, who gets one every day (lucky girl!). Can’t dole out that kind of dough? Recruit a partner or friend and pull off a massage swap. Another great option for pain relieve, as Cosgrove suggests, is rolling out tight muscles with a foam roller. Icing sore spots after a tough sweat session can also help, says Cosgrove or try using a pain-relieving gel (Torres uses Bengay, available at drugstores).

    Stretch It Out:
    Cosgrove says stretching is beneficial and something people don’t do often enough. “Biomechanics has shown that the best way to stretch muscles is by contracting and lengthening them at the same time,” says Dara. Here are three stretches to try that she does regularly (from her book Gold-Medal Fitness, available on Amazon.com from $6.72:

    For your outer thighs: The Knee to Chest Stretch
    1. Lie on your back with your head supported by a pillow, towel, or rolled mat. Cross your left foot over your right knee. Clasp your hands around your uncrossed (right) leg, behind the thigh.

    2. Push out with your crossed left leg, contracting your glutes and iliotibial band.

    3. As you contract the left leg into the right thigh, use the right leg and the arms to pull the right leg into the body.

    4. Pull your right knee to your chest until you can no longer resist.

    5. Release and return to start position.

    6. Do 5-10 reps on each side.

    For your groin: The Butterfly Stretch

    1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent and your heels together as close to your glutes as possible.

    2. Place your hands or elbows on the inside of your knees.

    3. Squeeze your knees together and use your hands or elbows to resist, then open your legs out to the side.

    4. Try to open your knees not just down, but away. This will help create traction in order to give you the best stretch.

    5. Release and return to start position.

    6. Do 5-10 reps.
    For your chest and biceps: The Eccentric Push-Up

    1. Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder width apart and your toes on the floor. For a beginner version, bend your legs and do the push-up from your knee. For a more advanced version, elevate your hands on yoga blocks so that you can lower the body below the plane of the floor.

    2. Slowly lower your chest to the ground with your head up, making sure that your elbows are in tight at your sides, parallel to your body, and that you maintain an external rotation of your arms.

    3. Return to push-up position.

    4. Do 5-10 reps.
    Eat Up
    “Everything you put into your body counts,” says Torres. Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, of Food Trainers in New York City, says the timing of your post-workout snack is critical for recovery. “You want to replenish fluid, electrolytes, protein and carbs within 30 to 40 minutes of your workout,” she says. Slayton suggests chocolate milk for a great mix of protein and carbs, tart cherry juice (which has been shown to delay muscle soreness after a workout), or a smoothie with fresh ginger, turmeric, coconut water, banana, protein powder and honey or stevia.

    While nothing’s off limits for Torres,—think: everything in moderation!—she aims to keep her diet clean and focuses on getting plenty of fatty acids. “They’re essential to support your workout and help the development of lean muscle mass and weight loss,” says Torres. Find them in walnuts, flax seeds and fatty fish like salmon, or in these good sources.

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