Tired of sore muscles? Try these post workout recovery tips to give your body some much-needed relaxation and relief.
Are your legs so sore that you can’t walk up and down stairs? Arms hurting so much that you can barely lift a glass of water? Or even worse, the dreaded squat to pick something up with beyond-sore glutes.
We’ve all skipped a few workouts before, only to return to the gym and suffer muscle soreness for the next five days. It’s definitely no fun. But before you start dreading that first day back after a little R&R, keep reading. We’ve put together a few strategies to get you through (or, better yet, prevent!) those days when it seems like everything you do hurts.
You’ve probably heard a gym-goer or personal trainer say post-workout is the most important time for both physical and nutritional recovery — and they’re right. Sore muscles can be debilitating because they put a kink in your everyday activities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips and tricks to help with your recovery.
We all know a warm-up is the key to a good workout, but how about a cool-down? More often than not, by the time we’ve finished our workout we just want to get home, shower, and relax. But hold on a second. Like a warm-up, a cool-down is one of the most important things you can do for your body after a workout. Here’s why:
- It allows your heart rate to return back to normal
- Gradually slows breathing
- Helps prevent muscle soreness
- Improves relaxation
Recovery is key
“NO DAYS OFF,” or another form of that statement, is one of the most common things you hear in the fitness world. Consider this: when we exercise – whether it be running, swimming, boxing, or lifting weights – we damage muscle fibers, which causes that feeling of soreness in the days to follow. But when we allow our bodies to rest, they have a chance to recover and repair those muscles for our next gruesome training session. In turn, this leads to stronger muscles and increased muscle size in the long run.
Depending on your athletic ability, 48-72 hours of rest is generally recommended to allow for a full recovery and to prevent injury. On days you skip the gym, light stretching and yoga are great ways to focus on any sore body parts. Need some guidance? Mobility WOD offers great help (and there are tons of free videos on YouTube!).
Next time someone tells you that you can’t take days off because you’ll lose your gains, tell them that you’re actually making gains by resting.
Keep a clean diet and lifestyle
When the body is in recovery mode, it initiates the inflammatory response to help the muscles heal. So we need to be careful of what we consume so we don’t overwhelm the body with pro-inflammatory foods that could comprise our recovery. Things like dairy, alcohol, sugar, and grains are best avoided.
Hormones are also a key factor in recovery. If your hormones are out of whack, your recovery will likely take longer. To help speed this up and keep your hormones happy, ensure you’re getting enough sleep (7-8 hours of restful sleep), practice de-stressing activities like meditation or breath work, go for long walks in nature (also great on recovery/rest days), or meditate.
Power up on nutrients
When you’re done with your workout, ensure you’re also stacking up on nutrients that help recovery.
- Magnesium — plays a role in a number of processes affecting muscle functions like oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance
- Potassium — muscle potassium loss has been a major factor associated with muscle fatigue, as it is a crucial mineral to heart function and muscle contraction
- Zinc — raises levels of three important anabolic hormones needed to improve strength and increase lean muscle mass (testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and growth hormone), boosts the immune system that is needed for recovery, and acts as an antioxidant
- Iron —is needed for oxygen transport and storage, energy metabolism, and acts as an antioxidant
Add in some creatine
Whether you’re new to the fitness world or an experienced athlete, you’ve most likely been recommended creatine as a supplement. Well known in the bodybuilding world for helping to build muscle mass and recover quicker, creatine also has a number of other functions that you may find useful to recovery.
- Helps muscle cells produce more energy via the formation of new ATP molecules (energy)
- Supports new muscle growth, increases water content of muscles, and boosts formation of proteins that create new muscle fibers
- Improves high intensity exercise performance (strength, ballistic power, sprint ability, muscle endurance, fatigue resistance, muscle mass, recovery, and brain performance)
- Speeds up muscle growth
- Reduces fatigue and tiredness
Turn up the heat, too
We often hear that ice is the best solution when we have muscle injuries. According to the most recent research, heat application seems to be the most effective. Why? Using a hot compress or sitting in a sauna promote the influx of blood to the inflamed area, speeding up its healing.
When muscles become inflamed and littered with micro-tears (a normal process of training), waste is produced. The heat helps to eliminate those byproducts.
Recovery isn’t the easiest thing to deal with, especially when soreness and pain get in the way of everyday activities. With these strategies, you can help your body recover faster and prevent sore muscles so you can get back into the gym that much sooner. But don’t forget — rest days and relaxation are also important to recovery!