By Dave Patania
Question: I am a woman in her mid 50s who is starting to hike. After my last 10-mile hike, it took me several days to recover. How can I recover more quickly from difficult hikes so that my legs aren't sore for days afterward?
Answer: There are many things that can contribute to prolonged recovery periods. Check with your doctor to test for any serious conditions. A more likely scenario is that since you just started hiking, your body isn't acclimated to working for long periods and just needs time to do so. Make sure you aren't doing too much too soon. Track your hikes to make sure that you are slowly increasing the mileage and duration for your body to adapt properly.
By the age of 50, the human body takes longer to recover from serious exercise. However, that doesn't mean that exercisers 50 and over can't do amazing things - they can. It just takes a little longer to recover. To recover more quickly, it is necessary to look at your activity and then make necessary adjustments.
Increase your sleep and rest time, which is when your body takes all the nutrients you consume and uses them for recovery and growth.
During long-duration activities such as hiking, you are expending a lot of calories (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins/minerals and electrolytes) that must be replenished consistently or your energy levels will drop and recovery periods increase. Your energy levels depend upon the amount of stored glycogen in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is the storage form of the carbohydrates that you consume.
With low carbohydrate levels, your body lacks the energy and capacity to fuel and recover from activity. It is important to eat enough quality carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes. These are carbs that don't get broken down easily and then converted to body fat, like low-quality carbs such as white flour products and white rice tend to do.
Additionally, as people age they tend to lose muscle mass more rapidly, which depletes strength and stamina levels. Eating ample amounts of protein (chicken, fish) will prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. Eat veggies for ample nutrient and antioxidant levels.
Low amounts of other nutrients, such as iron and calcium, are important with regard to energy levels, so be sure to have your doctor recommend a good vitamin/mineral/electrolyte plan for your increased activity levels. Fuel up with an energy bar or shake before, during and after your hikes. Along with water and a solid diet, these supplements are necessities for hikers.
Be sure to add strength training and stretching to support your hikes, aid in recovery and avoid injury. The addition of more calories, nutrients and supplements will make long recovery periods a thing of the past.
Contact personal trainer Dave Patania by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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