The 4 Rs of Recovery

Use these exepert tips to speed up recovery time after an injury

When you’re finally on roll with your exercise routine or right in the middle of a carefully planned out training plan, sustaining any kind of injury (even if it’s minor) not only sidelines you from working out, but can put a huge damper on your positive attitude, too.

All of sudden you have no choice but to rest (which you'll maybe enjoy for one day) and you spend all of your free time Googling recovery techniques, praying that you’ll be able to resume your training sooner rather than later.

But Google can only get you so far, and depending on the severity of your injury you may need a little bit more help than what an ice pack and ibuprofen can provide. That’s where someone like Dr. Scott Weiss, licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer, comes in.

In her most recent episode of Train Your Body on Radio MD, ACSM trainer Melanie Cole, MS sat down to chat with Dr. Weiss about how the everyday exerciser or athlete can recover from an injury more quickly. The most important part of recovery, according to Weiss, starts with paying attention to four important R words; repair, refuel, re-hydrate and revitalize.

These four words are focused around nutrition, which is an important part of recovery that many injured athletes and exercisers tend to neglect. Weiss notes that people who are injured and unable to exercise often under-eat because they’re afraid of gaining weight. “You need calories for healing,” said Weiss. “One of the most important things is really making sure that you’re maintaining your caloric intake.”

When it comes to the four Rs, Weiss recommends paying attention to the following nutrition components during recovery:

  • Repair: This involves consuming adequate amounts of protein, which will especially aid muscle recovery.
  • Refuel: This involves replenishing glycogen stores by eating the right amount and right kinds of carbohydrates.
  • Re-hydrate: Among other health benefits, staying properly hydrated will help your body be better able to deliver the nutrients that your cells and muscles need in order to repair themselves.   
  • Revitalize: This involves making sure to incorporate key vitamins and minerals in your diet. “Vitamins and minerals are essential,” said Weiss. “What we’re looking at mostly is C, Beta carotene, selenium, zinc, fatty acids… Stuff like that. If you put those together, you will be able to repair and recover faster.”

While the four Rs can be applied to any type of injury, Weiss notes that there are many different types of injuries and that each will require different rehab techniques.

He also mentioned that during his time at an Olympic training center he noticed many athletes using a recovery technique called contrast bathing, which involves stimulating the circulatory system by soaking in a hot tank and then immediately switching to a hot tub three to four times in a row.

“It really is a great flush for the body,” said Weiss.

Although contrast bathing is a relatively simple method that most amateurs can use, Weiss advises that hands on therapy, which helps reset and realign the body, is without a doubt the best recovery technique available.

He also notes that meditation is a really important and often overlooked aspect of the rehab process. “Sometimes when you get injured you do get very stressed out, you’re not sure what you should be doing, and certain forms of meditation [can help maintain] a mental calmness,” he said.

And his number one, top tip for getting back in the game as quickly as possible after an injury: “Don’t blow off your rehab sessions. Rehab is so important," said Weiss. "Once people start to function a little better they stop going to rehab and that’s not the right mindset. It’s really important to get to the end of your rehab session and let the physical therapist, athletic trainer or exercise physiologist discharge you. You don’t decide when you’re ready to go.”

Click here to listen to his entire interview with Cole.