The day after a hard workout, horrible right? Now, too much DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) can be a bad thing and shouldn’t be happening regularly, you know the pain to the point you can’t walk the next day because of “leg day” or you can’t push open a door because your chest is too sore. There are a lot of things you can do to make it less severe and a lot of things you can do to make it worse. Muscle soreness is trauma. You have injured the muscle and it’s hurt so unfortunately exercising on it more is not a good idea.
In the past year or so, I have focused a lot on mobility and flexibility. This is good for recovery but not the best. There are a lot of other things you can do to help you to recover and can be a lot better. I now no longer focus on my flexibility as I have now encorporated this into my workouts and actually feel a lot better. I have also increased my frequency at which I train, in particular how often I train my legs and work them 3-4 times a week for only a few sets at a time. Another thing you need to look at is your nervous system fatigue. Working at high intensities for a long period of time will eventually leave you drained. You can be intense without lifting sub-maximal loads. Vary the workouts by doing slower paced work or doing speed training.
You’ve just worked out and strained yourself. Make sure you rest the muscle you’ve just trained enough before training it again. It can take up to 72 hours for a muscle to fully heal up. Your rest will also determine your central nervous system fatigue. Your central nervous system will take up to 14 days to recover after a very intense workout so take this into account.
2. Eat more
Whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain or both. You have to ensure your calories are enough. If you are not consuming enough calories you will eventually get to an overtrained state and not be able to recover quick enough. If you are very concerned about your calories. focus on your timing of calories. Most carbs should be around your workout to replenish your glycogen supply and give you energy to heal your tissue.
3. Stay active
I know I said you shouldn’t exercise a sore muscle – and it’s not a good idea to continue to train it. However, light exercise can be beneficial, for example, going for a shorter walk just to get the blood flowing or doing some active mobility for the upper body to keep moving and prevent you locking up.
4. High-Quality Sleep
Focus on getting yourself a good nights sleep. During the night your body will be repairing itself. Once you are fasted during the night and not eating, this is when your body will release the most amount of Human Growth Hormone so get a good night sleep. Follow my guide here to get a good night time routine. You want to prioritise your deep sleep. Sleep will be the most crucial part. No sleep, no recovery.
5. Reduce stress
Your training releases cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the release of many essential hormones in your body. So do some yoga (great for your mobility too), focus on your breathing exercises and find yourself not only living happier but recovering better too. It can be hard to reduce your stress, but I have a guide on decreasing your stress. Have a read Here.
6. Use a foam roller
Not to cause any more muscular damage by the foam roller and really digging into muscular knots. Your aim is to simply get on the foam roller and slowly relax onto it. This will allow you to further relax your muscles and get them to release the tension for you. And in doing this, the blood flow will be increased to the muscle which again, brings nutrients. Proper use of a foam roller can be your biggest ally when it comes to sorting your muscle soreness but can also be the same as doing stretching. If you are focusing on relaxing the muscle not over-stretching it.
7. Focus on antioxidants…to an extent
Training causes free radicals in the body to be released which will age you. So a varied diet of fruit and vegetables will be required to counter act and neutralise these. Unfortunately, your body uses those free radicals and the inflammation to cause an adaptation response which causes muscular growth or fat loss so although they are a bad thing if you are focusing on muscular growth then delay your antioxidants to about 1-2 hours after your workout.
8. Hot/cold therapy
I have written an article about Sauna and ice bath use which can be found here. This helps relieve muscular tension by reducing inflammatory markers in the body and the vasodilation and constriction caused are great for moving nutrients and blood around the body. But again, you need these markers before a response happens and muscle growth can happen. Give them time in the body, a few hours after a hard workout will be the best thing to do.
9. Anti-inflammatory foods
Foods are the best medicine. With a varied diet, you can feel 100% better. Foods can be great to reduce tension. Not only with plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Eat a diet with herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon and lots of omega-3’s which overall help remove inflammation from the body and helps your bodys’ rate of recovery.
10. Focus on higher frequency
Forget the idea of a “leg day” instead, over time, increase the frequency you train a muscle. Instead of hitting your legs hard once a week with 20+ sets. Work on twice a week with 10 sets per workout. Your body won’t need as much recovery from the workouts and you can actually get better results.
11. Try Magnesium
Lastly, Magnesium is deficient in most people who train regularly in the gym. A topical magnesium spray before bed on a sore muscle is a good way to increase the blood flow and help the muscle relax. Be careful, however, that when you use it for the first few times it will itch. This is natural and is because of the vasodilation of the muscle which is happening rapidly.