How should I recover after boot camp?

Boot camp recovery | British Military Fitness


After a good boot camp session, you might think that you can’t even entertain the idea of moving a muscle. We explain why that’s the worst thing you can do and what you should try instead

Boot camps are a fun, social and convenient way to get fit. However, they can also be the kind of hard work that can wreak havoc on your muscles the following day; the sort of sensation that can leave a spritely 30-something feeling double their digits. This isn’t conducive to your likely fitness or physique goals, both of which will involve getting to another boot camp session ASAP.

So, in the name of hitting your goals, here’s the British Military Fitness guide to getting back on the strength and conditioning horse.

Do It Again

No, we’ve not gone mad! The best way to make your aching, post-boot camp muscles feel better, the same ones that moan every time you have the cheek to walk up a flight of stairs, is to give them a quick workout.

It might sound nonsensical, but it’s backed up by science – honest. Researchers at the University of Glasgow found post-workout recovery was better in individuals who exercised while their muscles were still repairing. The effect was even greater the more intense their ‘active recovery’ was.

British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, says for boot camp goers, it could be anything from a good walk to a light routine. It depends on which parts ache the most, but for legs, Andy advises “Some light bodyweight squats followed by some hip mobility work – so stretching quads, hamstrings, that sort of thing.”

He adds: “If it’s for mobility, what you could do is an overhead squat. So grab some bamboo, or a stick, hold it overhead, squat to the floor and do two sets of eight reps, followed by some stretching.”

Keep Rollin’

Giving your moaning muscles a rub-down by your own hand can sometimes demand the kind of flexibility not many can afford, and it’s not always viable to pony up the dough to have a professional masseur or masseuse do it for you. This is where something called self-myofascial release comes in. This basically means rolling yourself over a big foam massager.

It might sound weird, but top sportspeople have been doing it for years, so you know there’s a method to the madness. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found post-exercise fatigue was significantly reduced by using a foam roller. As the study speculates, this could mean being able to put in extra time and effort into the next boot camp session, potentially meaning that more strength is built and more fat gets burned.   

Ice, Ice, Baby

Immersing yourself in ice-cold water after exercise best reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery, according to research from the University of Western Australia. That’s compared to bathing in both hot then cold water, or not using any post-workout treatment at all.

The theory is that the freezing temperature constricts your blood vessels, which pushes out blood filled with the waste products caused by exercise (and that lead to post-workout pain). When you return to room temperature, fresh blood floods your muscles with nutrients. All you need to remember is that the days after a boot camp session don’t have to be filled with hurt.

Sleep Easy

What is long-time British Military Fitness instructor Andy Kay’s top tip for recovery? “Get plenty of sleep,” he insists. “Have an early night; eight hours of sleep.” There’s a chance that’s all you’ll want to do after a boot camp class, but now you can sleep soundly knowing hitting the hay is recommended by research.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found having a nap after a 90-minute bout of endurance training was a valuable tool for physical recovery. This means that skipping your 40 (or more) winks after a boot camp class is likely to have you really feeling the effects the following day. As if you needed any more excuse to hit the snooze button!

What Not To Do 

British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, explains the ways you shouldn’t be nursing your muscles after a boot camp session:

1. “A lot of people do nothing because they don’t want to make it any worse. That’s proven to be the worst way to recover. You recover a lot slower by being static.”

2. “Going for a single beer afterwards is great, but if you go for a drinking session after a BMF session, you’re going to undo all your hard work.”

3. “Not eating food or having something like a protein shake after a session is really going to slow you down.” 


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