I thought of writing this post today because currently I can’t straighten my arms from being soooo soreeee. I did a chest and back workout yesterday which included pull-ups…which I haven’t done in months! The first few days of lifting after a long hiatus are always the worst in terms of soreness.
While sometimes you can’t avoid soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), there are ways to promote muscle recovery, and feel back to normal faster. Here are tips that have worked for me, and may help you to avoid the DOMS!
- Have something with protein after every workout. I usually try to have a protein shake as soon as I get home, or if my workout is timed right, I get home and just have dinner. Protein aids in the repair of exercise-induced damage to muscle fibers.  Every time you go to the gym, you are damaging and tearing your muscle fibers. What you do after the gym is what matters, because once those fibers heal is when you will see your gains (i.e. – lift heavier). Active states:
Heavy resistance exercise increases the rates of both protein synthesis and breakdown in muscle for at least 24 hours after a workout. Unless a protein-containing meal is consumed during recovery, breakdown will exceed synthesis, resulting in the loss of muscle mass.
I usually try to get around 20-30 grams, and within 30 minutes of my workout ending.
- Stretch. I always try to stretch after every workout. Your muscles are nice and warm, and this is the perfect time to stretch them out after they have tightened up during your workout. According to MIT:
When you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.
- Ice, use heat, BioFreeze, etc. If something feels swollen, like a joint, ice it to decrease inflammation. I’ve also tried “contrast therapy” after long runs or hard workouts. Get in the shower, use cold water for 30 seconds, then switch to hot water, and repeat 4-5 times. If a muscle is just plain sore, applying a heat pack can help it relax. My physical therapist also recommended BioFreeze for times when ice isn’t convenient. It’s like Bengay or IcyHot but with less chemicals…and definitely makes whatever area you’re using it on feel nice and cold! I was applying it to my shins and calves before bed.
- Foam roll/self-myofascial release. I don’t think I need to talk about this too much. Foam rolling has so many benefits for your muscles, despite sometimes being painful! It helps release muscle adhesions (knots) in order to help muscle recovery, and allows your muscles to move much smoother. If you don’t have a foam roller, use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. I like it better anyway because it’s smaller and can really get into those hard to reach muscles. When you hit a tender spot, stay there for 20-30 seconds, and/or also try flexing and unflexing the muscle (similar to ART). Foam roll first, then stretch.
- Take supplements. Magnesium is something many people don’t get enough of, and it helps greatly with muscle recovery, nerve function, and also helps you get better sleep. . I also take L-Glutamine and have taken BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) before. L-Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to ease trauma, and halt the breakdown of muscles. BCAAs support muscle protein synthesis and also can decrease muscle soreness such as DOMS. Read more benefits of BCAAs on Charles Poliquin’s website – he’s a well-renowned and respected trainer.
So there you have it folks. Those are just some ways that I help my muscles recover. It really is important to remember that what you do OUT of the gym matters more than IN the gym. Make sure to get enough sleep, hydrate, etc. to take care of your muscles and you will see the results you want.
What tips would you add to this list? Which of these haven’t you tried yet?
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