Week after week, day after day, session after session, we put our bodies through hell in the gym, on the field, or on the court with one objective: outwork the competition. Day 1 most of us can lock in and get after it and feel accomplished. But the next morning when your body aches, your triceps are cramping, your legs feel like noodles, and you can’t even laugh because your abs hurt, are you going to show back up? If you show back up, can you push yourself as you did on day one? Recovery is an essential, but often overlooked part of any training program.
When DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in, aka next-day muscle soreness, the body is telling us that it is not fully recovered. You may be able to push through the scheduled session, but you will not be as effective or efficient. The more sessions we have from a healthy fully recovered the body, the more progress we make. If you are blowing off the recovery process, you are leaving gains on the table. The following is a list of five easy things you can do to get your body fresh and ready to optimize your next workout.
1. SMR (Self-myofascial release) AKA foam rolling
Athletes repeat the same movements over and over which makes the muscles that are responsible for those movements overactive and tight. With a foam roller, we can target these tight trouble areas such as the hamstrings, IT band, lats, and calves. In fact, a study has shown that foam rolling showed relief against DOMS while stretching shown to have no effect at all.
Tip: For the best result do not use the foam roller as a massager, find the tight spot in the overactive muscle and hold it for 30 seconds
2. Get Your Sleep
Obviously, lack of sleep can have many side effects that can be detrimental to an athlete, lack of energy, increased stress, even decreased memory. A recent study also shows that not enough sleep can also prevent protein synthesis, the process that rebuilds our muscles after we tear them up after a workout (Yang, 2019). Allow your body to recharge and shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep at nighttime. Lack of sleep can also significantly lower testosterone levels. Everybody’s body is different, so keep track of how much you are sleeping and your performance numbers and adjust accordingly.
Tip: If you are in a “two a day” cycle, try taking a power nap during the day right after a meal in order to allow the body to prepare for the second session.
Ice baths, they suck, but they work. Most have used ice or a cold pack to heal some sort of inflammation, but its also a remedy for muscle soreness. In fact, ice baths have proven to be more effective against DOMS than massages (Hartono, 2019). You do not need anything fancy to do this, just simply dump a bag of ice in the bathtub with cold water immediately after your workout, then sit in the tub for 5-15 minutes.
Tip: If you cannot stand the ice at first (like me) try alternating between hot water and cold water in 30-60 second intervals.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water daily is the most basic form of maintenance you can do for your body, it’s like checking the oil in your vehicle. No matter what your fitness goal is, weight loss, muscle gain, etc., drinking water supports the mission. Being hydrated before, during, and after the workout, reduces, fatigue, risk of injury, DOM.S, and post muscle cramps.
Tip: Whatever your body weight is, multiply it by .5 and try to drink that much in ounces (If you are 200 pounds, you should be shooting for 100 pounds a day.)
5. Consume Anti-Inflammatories
Muscles and joints tend to become inflamed during a long season, or even a vigorous offseason. We know Aspirin and Ibuprofen as treatments for inflammation, but there are also fruits and vegetables that have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Yes, fruits are carbs and loaded with sugar, but I addressed that in this article (add link). Experiment and see which method your body responds to the best.
Tip: There are other plants outside of fruits and vegetables that have been clinically proven to be effective against inflammation, but we will save that topic for another article.