For decades, fitness fiends have run, crunched and pumped their way to sleeker arms and six-pack abs. But over the last year or two, a revolution has taken place. Thanks to the higher-than-ever stress of modern life, developments in exercise science, and a host of new, Instagram-able ways to relax and repair, those who had shunned recovery in the past are coming around. Celebrity hotspot Shape House, which offers sweating in infrared sauna as an alternative to exercise, just opened its ninth location in Brooklyn, N.Y., while fitness studios such as SLT now offer stretching sessions alongside ab-blasting workouts. In Houston (home to The Sunday Edit), Brian and Robyn Goldstein plan to open StretchLab in early 2019, which will feature personal and group stretching classes.
“People have always overlooked stretching, because it seemed like something that was unnecessary and only for those who ‘can’t do’,” says Hakika DuBose, founder of Kika Stretch Studios. “When people do cardio, they feel exhausted and overworked. People equate this with trying their best. When people stretch, it doesn’t take their bodies to that much of an extreme, so they equate it with not doing enough.”
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At ReCOVER, a “recovery studio” that opened in NYC earlier this year, clients range from injured fitness buffs to elite athletes hoping to boost their performance — and bodies. The blend of stretching, induced relaxation and muscle repair can help anyone, says co-founder Aaron Drogoszewski. The trendy treatments catch on because they work, leading to stronger muscles, better posture, improved health and, often, a tighter, toned bod.
“Your gains aren’t made on the training floor, they’re made as your body heals whatever stress you place upon it. Because that’s what exercise is — stress is stress, and your body reacts to it,” explains Drogoszewski. “If any given stressor is not mitigated, your body basically ceases to make gains, and starts fighting back.” That might look like an overuse injury, or mental and physical burnout, all of which is preventable with the right techniques. “Giving your body the time to heal is imperative,” he says. “And recovery doesn’t just mean downtime — it means creating an environment, both internally and externally, that’s conducive to healing.”
Your body may add a layer of fat as a response to stress
Everyone can benefit with recovery, but there are clues that you might be particularly in need. “The most common sign is general fatigue — a lack of motivation, or a decline in your workouts,” says Drogoszewski. Say you are used to zipping through an easy three-mile run, or plie-ing your way through an advanced barre class. If those same workouts start to feel tougher, or your body starts to tense up while you do them, you likely need to rethink your recovery. That fatigue might also show up as a lack of results — instead of a flatter stomach and more defined arms, your body may add a layer of fat as a response to stress.
The most common problem that DuBose sees at her studios is tension from over-the-top workouts, which, after a while, leave a person in agony. “If you don’t release that tension, it builds up, causing discomfort, pain and stress,” says DuBose, who notes that many of her clients come running after sustaining an injury. “More and more people are living in discomfort.”
Time to heal has always been essential, but modern life has ramped up the amount of attention we need to give it. “We’re in a position now where somebody leaves the gym where there was a very rational dose of [stress on the body], and then walks out into the streets and there’s the stress of traffic and going to work — there’s never any relief,” says Drogoszewski.
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What do we do? We help you perform bett*r, recover fast*r, r*duce risk of injury, and d*stress 💯💯 Oh, and we also stretch you out 😉 #getloose #recovery #bendingrules #stretch #betterthanamassage #flexibleisthenewstrong #sixfeettall #performbetter #recoverfaster #destress 📸and model cred 🙏@meaghanbloom. As edited by @interiorstate 👈
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Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Recovering from a workout doesn’t require spending hundreds of dollars on lymphatic drainage or meditation-inducing technology, though ReCOVER offers those, too. Instead, Drogoszewski suggests starting outside the gym. When your sleep quality starts to diminish, take that as a sign. The more your body needs to recover through sleep, the worse your sleep quality becomes, thanks to stress hormones coursing through your system. You might find yourself getting sick or taking longer to recover from a heavy workout. “The most basic form of recovery, even 100 years ago, is getting a good night’s sleep and eating well.” That means avoiding eating too close to bedtime, which can force your heart to accelerate as you process food, disrupting your sleep quality. Blue light, emitted from phones, computers, TVs and more, should be avoided as much as possible at night. And when you wake up in the morning, pause before you down caffeine. “The first thing you should drink in the morning should not be coffee,” says Drogoszewski. “Kick-starting your adrenal system that hard in the morning is pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to be out of whack all day,” adding extra stress on top of what you’re getting from a workout. He suggests sipping a large glass of room-temperature water before anything caffeinated, to replace what you’ve lost through sweat overnight.
If you’re looking for something a little more hardcore, just scroll through your Instagram feed for the latest trendy treatments, which fitfluencers have begun posting between gym selfies and pictures of celery juice. NormaTec compression boots are popular at ReCOVER, in part because they boost circulation and lymphatic drainage, and in part because the giant moon boots just look cool. Drogoszewski’s personal favorite is a technology called NuCalm, which uses cranial electrotherapy stimulation to replicate the kind of mental break you’d get from master-level meditation. Other popular recovery methods include cryotherapy, which uses blasts of subzero temperature air to fight inflammation, and vitamin IVs, which some say can boost hydration and fend off fatigue.
Particularly hot at the moment are infrared saunas, which use a spectrum of light waves to heat the body, rather than the air. “It’s great for the cardiovascular system,” says Drogoszewski. “You’re healing the muscles, there’s detoxification, but it’s also helping to hit pause on life and take some time for yourself. That gesture, that you’ve identified that you’re taking 60 minutes to yourself, on a psychological capacity, I think it’s a great tool.” Plus, he points out, infrared saunas can help heal ligament strains, which are slow to repair themselves thanks to low circulation near the injury site.
But for the average exerciser, recovery can be as simple as proper stretching. Stretching has gotten a bad rap over the years, with some studies finding that it’s ineffective, or even dangerous, to stretch muscles before or after a workout. “All of that blowback that said stretching is bad, that research was based on statically stretching hamstrings, which is terrible,” explains Drogoszewski. “If you look at basic stretching of hip flexors, or the lats, that’s a much different conversation. Static stretching the wrong muscles is terrible, but so is neglecting to stretch the muscles that need it.”
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