Back on Track

Three tips to a faster recovery.

After a long, muddy spring, it’s finally time to hit the trail. Since summer goes by in an instant, you want to make the most of it, and no one likes passing up a hike or ride from being too sore. Here are three simple ways to recover from your last adventure, and be ready for the next one. 

This is one of the easiest ways to begin the recovery process. On average, for full hydration, women need 120 ounces of water per day and men need 150. Warm weather, sun exposure, and sweat call for even more. When you sweat, your body excretes both water and salt. Thus, when hydrating, it’s important that electrolytes (e.g., salts) be part of your intra- and post-exercise regimen. Achieve this by diluting Gatorade or by mixing 1 gram of sea salt into each quart of water. This trick increases muscle function at the cellular level by helping the sodium-potassium pumps in your cells work properly. The result is smooth, efficient muscle contraction.

Everyone knows that snacks keep you from getting hangry, but how much food do you actually need to eat on a day trip? Simply being alive, your body burns 1,200-2,200 calories per day, depending on height, weight, and lean body mass. The number of calories you eat minus the number of calories you burn is your caloric deficit. In a caloric deficit, your body taps into its own energy stores to keep you moving. On an average hike, the typical 180-pound person burns 100 calories per mile, while a 120-pound person burns 65 calories per mile. A heavy pack will make you burn even more calories. In comparison, on a mountain-bike ride, where more muscles are involved, the typical person burns 450-750 calories per hour. With that in mind, you need to pack enough food to avoid a significant deficit. Choose dried fruits as a source of carbohydrates and organic or locally produced jerky for clean protein. Compared to energy bars, these higher-quality foods break down faster and are absorbed more quickly into your digestive system and muscles.

After your time outside, nothing sounds better than heading to your local brewery, ordering a beer and a plate of nachos, and relaxing. That’s a great idea, but there are some things you should do first to jumpstart your recovery. Your quads, hamstrings, and shoulders are the biggest, most-used muscle groups in the body. Stretching those while you’re still at the trailhead, immediately after an outing, is a great way to relax the body, begin the cool-down process, and transition your mind to the next part of your day. While holding a static stretch, your bloodflow decreases. When you release the stretch, your bloodflow speeds back up, transporting more nutrients to your muscles, and decreasing soreness over time. While you stretch, take a few deep breaths, eat your leftover snacks, and finish your water bottle. Then drive down the hill to grab a cold beer.

Caitlin Jones is a CrossFit and nutrition coach at Altitude Athletics.