Massages and 90-minute yoga classes. A new pair of kicks. A warm bath filled with Epsom salts, the door shut to keep out any distractions of pets, kids and family. A workout outfit to replace those ratty, baggy T-shirts we've been wearing.
Indulgent luxuries? Essentials in the Badass Journey? How about both? Massages and warm baths aren't essential like food and water, and we can always find excuses for "better things" to spend money on than sneakers and running pants.
But when you're pushing your muscles harder, running further and longer, and testing your physical limits, these luxuries become essentials. I learned the hard way recently, going a few months without regular massages and running in the wrong shoes for my pronating feet. Result: tweaked right hip flexor and glute.
When we're taking (or teaching) multiple classes per week, or training for a race or endurance event, we are asking a lot of those muscles and joints. And plenty of research shows there are real and measurable benefits from some of these "luxuries." So next time you think about skipping them or "going without," consider...
1. Massages and yoga: An hour of massage has the equivalent healing benefits of 7 to 8 hours of sleep, my masseuse at Cabello's here in Tallahassee told me. A sports massage helps release the lactic acid that builds up with intense training. If you are lucky enough to find the right masseuse, regular visits can speed up muscle recovery and tightness - preventing injuries.
Yoga is equally beneficial, particularly for stretching muscles and improving flexibility so that we perform better when it counts. Yoga, depending on the variety, also can tone muscles and provide a gentle cardiovascular workout that counts as "active recovery." It reduces blood pressure, respiratory rate, and pulse rate, even as it boosts energy levels and helps us sleep better.
2. The right kicks and workout clothing: The owner of Shaw's Athletics, a shoe and clothing store here in Tallahassee, cringes every time he walks past the group fitness room at his gym and sees people doing a step or kickboxing class in running shoes. He also cringed when I went in a few weeks ago for inserts and he saw how much I pronate without them. Investing in a good pair of sneakers - and a pair for each of whatever activity you do - is NOT a luxury. Skipping out for a cheap pair is like going into battle with a toy gun. You might survive a few skirmishes, but eventually it will catch up with you. I learned the hard way, and will never be so foolish again. Your body - including your feet - is your machine. The armor you protect it with is just as important as the fuel you put into it.
This applies to workout clothes, too. It isn't necessary to buy the most expensive line of workout gear out there, and lucky for us places like Target carry good and affordable lines like C3 by Champion. But to perform your best, you need clothes that let your skin breathe and your arms and legs move. If you cycle, you need cycling shorts. If you do yoga, sweatpants and baggy T are not the way to go.
3. Epsom salt baths: I am not sure where these were hiding all my 30-plus years, but I have finally awakened to the awesomeness of Epsom salt baths and am addicted. Just 15 or 20 minutes in a warm Epsom salt bath a couole of times a week can make a big difference in your muscle recovery time. Do it at the end of the day, and it will also ease you right to sleep.
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which is absorbed through the skin as we soak in it. Magnesium helps reduce inflammation, thus cutting down on pain and muscle cramps. It is vital to bodily functions including muscle control, energy production and the elimination of toxins. It is also a natural stress reliever - helping the body to bind serotonin, the mood-elevating chemical that gets released from the brain.
I have been diligent in "indulging" in bi-monthly massages, weekly hot yoga, the right shoes, and Epsom salt baths. Result: A healing hip flexor and glute, and stronger performance in classes and my own weight training.
So go ahead and "indulge." If anyone questions you, tell them your trainer told you to! ;)
Coming up: A few workout moves for a stronger upper body, and a Badass Recruit shares her latest recipe makeover. Hint: a cheesy casserole can still be yours to enjoy this holiday season...