Recovery steps after workout key to preventing injuries, experts say

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Good recovery after intense workouts is the key to avoiding injury and maximizing performance. (KABC)

Running is a great workout.

But for every 100 hours of running, the average runner will sustain at least one injury.

There are ways to minimize future injuries; in fact, experts say the key to a strong workout is a strong recovery afterwards.

Thirteen-year-old Braxton Bokos is a great, all-around athlete.

"I competitively swim all year round," Bokos said.

In addition to that, Bokos bikes and runs. He trains hard and he recovers even harder.

Physical therapist Gina Pongetti agrees with Bokos' recovery strategy.

She says, "For an ounce of exertion in the body, you need two ounces of prevention after. You can't just run 20 miles and expect for your body to actually say 'Hey that was great, let's just do it again tomorrow.'"

Pongetti is a former gymnast and triathlete, and now runs a facility offering tools and techniques to help athletes heal more quickly between grueling workouts.

There's a payoff if you focus on recovery right after a workout.

"The next day when you work out, you will actually be able to put more energy into the workout as opposed to the body still residually recovering from the day before," says Pongetti.

And this will lower your risk for fatigued-based injuries, such as sprains, strains and stress fractures.

Experts say a good strategy is to plan a recovery week, every three to five weeks of intense exercise.

That's when you should aim to perform at half your maximum and you should feel refreshed and energized afterwards.

Make sure you have 24 to 72 hours rest between intense training sessions involving the same muscle group. And try to develop a regular sleeping routine; going to bed at the same time every night, without distractions like light, smartphones and TV.

There are lots of modalities offered by physical therapists to help in recovery; cryotherapy to reduce inflammation, electrical muscle stimulation to improve blood circulation, and massage therapy to reduce muscle soreness after an intense workout.

Swimmer Jen Conroyd braves freezing temperatures to do cryotherapy.

Conroyd said, "Cryotherapy has made a really big difference in my recovery and my performance. I've noticed a big difference in my speeds and my times."

And no injuries.

"You give as much attention to your recovery as your work because what you don't want to do is get to training 20 miles and the next thing you know, you're injured and you're out and you can't finish the marathon," said Conroyd.

But experts say if you don't have access to a high-tech recovery facility, or a physical therapist, there are lots of things you can do at home or in the gym that will help minimize injury through recovery. Try self-massage with foam rollers, or use a massage stick. Using tennis balls can also help reduce muscle stiffness. And a hot soak using epsom salts helps relax muscles, as well.
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