Recovery is the most important part of training — the time when your body actually makes gains. There is more to recovery than sleep and rest. You can encourage it through a variety of more interesting methods.

There are a few things that must occur for real recovery to actually happen. This includes a replenishing of energy to the muscles, a draining of waste from the previous energy formations and an influx of amino acids and other nutrients to help rebuild broken down muscles. All of these require great circulation to allow the fresh stuff to get in and to flush the old stuff out of muscle tissue.

Here are a few cool ways you can encourage recovery by helping circulation.

1. Saunas and Heat

Heat from environments like saunas and steam rooms is a nice way to help with recovery on an off day. The heat helps to increase blood flow and loosen up tight muscles. You don’t need a lot of time in the heat for it to work — five to 10 minutes is enough to benefit from it. Staying in a sauna too long can be risky, depending on how hot it is. It can cause dehydration and lead to fatigue as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

2. EMS

Electrical Muscle Stimulation machines are no longer just for use by physiotherapists. Muscle stim has been used for recovery in rehab for a long time. Powerdot brings this to athletes in an easy and affordable way. Sending little electrical impulses into the muscle at variable frequencies that replicate massage helps increase blood flow and accelerate muscle recovery.

electrical muscle stimulation

3. Cupping

Cupping is a form of Chinese medicine that uses small heated cups that suction to the skin. You may have noticed circular discolorations on someone’s skin? That is the effect of cupping. It works by drawing blood to the surface of the skin. Nutrients are rushed in, increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles. You’ll need to seek the help of a professional for this one.

4. Dry Needling

Using very thin, hollow needles, dry needling is like acupuncture. The needles are tapped into trigger points that hold a lot of tension in the form of muscle fiber contractions. Trigger point tension is common in athletes who do a lot of resistance work. The needling helps the muscle tissue to relax, encouraging a more rapid recovery.

5. Heat + Cold

This works when done immediately after training. Not every athlete will have access to a hot and cold tub; but if you can get your hands on something that stays within the principle of very hot and then very cold, give it a shot. The heat increases body temperature by being completely immersed for one to five minutes. Next, jump into a cold bath for anywhere between one and five minutes as well.

6. Epsom Salt Bath

The Epsom salt bath is a variation we love using the evening of training. Unlike a hot-to-cold dip that fires up your system, this one is about soaking up the magnesium in the salts to get all the little contractions to stop firing and loosen up. Expect to sleep like a baby after a five- to 10-minute Epsom salt bath. But beware: soak more than 10 minutes and you might feel like a sloth the next day.