When it comes to our quest for better health, we all know the value of diet and exercise. However, something that we overlook is the importance of self-care activities that aid our bodies in recovering from hard workouts and the stress of daily life.
We often understand why self-care is important until we are already injured or in chronic pain, which can be avoided. Much like the various types of exercise, there are many forms of self-care to choose from.
Self massage tools like foam rollers and balls allow you to mimic the results of bodywork or massage with the use of basic props. There are also sequences in yoga designed to reduce stress and restriction in the body.
Devoting a few minutes a day to self-care will give you better results from your workouts without the frustration and setbacks of pain, injury or undue soreness.
1. It reduces the chance of injury
This is one reason why many longtime runners suffer hip or back pain and why some weight lifters end up with rotator cuff or meniscal tears, despite never having a specific traumatic event that caused the injury.
Most forms of self-care include techniques to release muscular or fascial restrictions in the body. Incorporating a few of these moves into your daily routine can reduce post-exercise tightness and improve mobility allowing for better body mechanics.
The end result is access the full expression of a challenging yoga pose, a more efficient running stride or a deeper squat with less wear and tear on the joints.
2. It enhances recovery
Vigorous exercise has numerous health benefits, but it still creates inflammation, which our bodies have to recover from. This is part of why we sometimes feel sore after exercise.
Anecdotally, we know that massage can make us feel better after a hard workout, but there is now scientific evidence suggesting that bodywork can speed up the recovery process and reduce inflammation brought on by exercise.
Self-care techniques that mimic massage can’t replace good bodywork, but giving your body a little TLC after a challenging workout can reduce your perception of soreness and keep you feeling good between training sessions.
3. It decreases stress
It’s no secret that many of us live in a state of heightened stress. When stress becomes chronic, it disrupts our bodies’ natural regulating and healing mechanisms, which as several studies have confirmed, makes us sick and ages us faster.
Short of sleep, which most of us don’t get enough of, few activities allow for our nervous system to return to its rest and digest mode. Even exercise can heighten a sympathetic or stress response in the body. Self-care is one way that you can decrease the stress reflex in your body during your waking hours.
Taking a few minutes to perform self-care will give you time to slow down, breath and notice what you feel, This can be enough to calm nervous system, which means better sleep, digestion and hormonal regulation.