An in-depth exploration of recovery, “something that athletes—pros and weekend warriors alike—do with almost as much gusto and drive as their training.”
Everybody knows that strenuous activity takes it out of a person; it’s why we drink Gatorade between tennis sets and suck down chocolate milk after a marathon. However, as with everything else, science and big bucks alike have entered the picture. In Colorado, where Washington Post health columnist and FiveThirtyEight lead science writer Aschwanden lives, she is able to use a facility packed with massage tables, saunas, Bio-mats, infrared therapy machines, and other gadgets. Her initial diagnosis after a 5K run: “soft tissue work, electrical stimulation, compression, and vibration.” That’s just the beginning, and though Colorado is known as a New Age–y place, there’s good science behind the whole enterprise. The author takes a leisurely tour through the available modalities, though with a knowing wink from start to finish. As she writes of the recovery business, “we’ve somehow managed to make every aspect of it—nutrition, relaxation, and sleep—vastly more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming than it was before.” Still, who doesn’t like a nice spa? Or a cold brew—for, as Aschwanden learned, there is reason to believe that alcohol and pasta may be good as recovery tools for some runners, if, strangely, better for women than for men. The author is refreshingly skeptical throughout, and she turns in some observations along the way that go against received wisdom and practice but, again, have science behind them—e.g., the revised schedule for drinking water while engaging in strenuous activities or in arid environments. “After examining the science,” she writes, reiterating a theme, “I can’t help thinking we’ve made hydration unduly complicated.” But so it is throughout this spry narrative, which makes a good guide for those contemplating adding recovery to their routines.
Sleep in and have a beer: There’s a winning regimen. A smart, engaging book.