Few athletes have more challenging and rigorous workout schedules than an Olympic athlete. From two-a-day weight-training sessions to multiple swim sessions each day to 32 hours a week of performance practices — it's anything but easy when you're going for gold.
But if you don't take a rest, you're doing your body more harm than good. To keep their bodies in peak physical form, Olympians have to put as much into their recovery as they do into their workouts — and we should take heed! We chatted with gold medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin about her training-recovery secrets, and we were thrilled to know that we can incorporate them into our everyday (read: NOT Olympic) workout schedule, too!
- Cupping. "I've been doing cupping therapy for about eight years now," said Natalie. "I love it so much . . . especially on my lower and upper back where I carry so much tension." Natalie told us that cupping therapy — which has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries — is the quickest, easiest way to alleviate tension. Never tried cupping before? Natalie says it's basically the opposite of a massage. "If you think of a massage as positive pressure (by adding force to the muscle), cupping pulls the muscle and fascia apart where you have adhesions."
- Recovery Smoothie. As a creature of habit, Natalie has been doing more than just cupping for years — she's made the same smoothie every day for years, too! Her recovery smoothie is only four ingredients — almond milk, almond butter, frozen dark cherries, and half of a banana! She drinks this twice a day, and if she needs something more substantial and filling, she adds rolled oats to the blend. Cherries can reduce inflammation and prevent muscle damage, so this recipe really packs a punch!
- Compression. To keep things balanced from the cupping, Natalie also incorporates compression and massages. She uses a device called Normatec and mentioned that physical therapy offices house these devices and you can use them for 20-minute sessions. "It's a really good way to get recovery, in addition to massage and physical therapy." We agree — massages and compression after a workout have been known to improve circulation and help prevent DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
Looking for more recovery tips? Try our post-workout recovery checklist, and you'll be feeling good as new (and ready to rock another workout!).