The running shoes are out, your bike has been dusted off and those dumbbells hidden away in the garage have now been put to good use. With gyms looking like they will be closed for a little while longer we have been taking fitness into our own hands. For some this may be a little daunting and others might relish this opportunity to run to their heart's content.
Often we feel that more is better when it comes to exercise, but we must allow some essential recovery time so that we can keep improving and reduce the risk of injury.
Here are some key strategies to reduce the muscle soreness and give your body that vital downtime it needs so that you can continue crushing your training.
Drink Lots Of Fluid and Hydrate
We all know the importance of drinking water throughout the day, but when we begin to ramp up our training we need to place more emphasis on rehydrating. Dehydration can not only hinder our sports performance but increases our risk of injury as well. Try and begin your training having already drunk sufficient fluids, a good way to gauge if you need to drink more or less is to observe your urine colour, if it is bright yellow then it's time to drink more water, we want to be aiming for more of a pale/clear tinge of yellow. Now, how about after training here is when we should be a bit more mindful of our levels of exhaustion. If you are training for in excess of 1 hr then definitely drink your fill of water, if you are feeling above average muscle fatigue or getting cramps, try and source yourself a sports drink or some powdered electrolytes to add to your water.
Nutrition and Protein Intake
Exercise is taxing on the body and inadequate recovery nutrition can lead to diminished performance gains and increased muscle soreness. So what do you eat? Everyone is different in what they like to eat, what their appetite is like and what sits comfortably in their stomach in the hours after exercise but in general, foods should be rich in quality carbohydrates such as fresh fruit and contain some lean protein to promote muscle repair. Protein is the number one muscle repairing nutrient you can incorporate in your diet. Instead of adding supplements to your smoothies, focus on getting your daily intake of protein from whole foods such as eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and lean cuts of meat. These versatile ingredients make great snacks or full meals that will help with your recovery.
Planned Rest and 'Active' Rest Days
Take a break! We don’t need to constantly beat our bodies up, our muscles will actually thank you for the much-needed downtime. If your goal is to train 5 days a week then use the weekends as your planned rest days where you ease up on the accelerator. Recovery doesn’t always have to be total inactivity but. There are days when passive rest is what your body needs but other times, taking a more active approach is the best way to boost recovery from exercise. Try including low-intensity exercise that promotes blood flow to the muscles such as walking or a light swim, this helps them to recover better and faster.
By moving your body you’re speeding up the recovery process, but here’s the catch: You need to be active enough to increase blood flow, but gentle enough to allow your muscles to heal. The goal here is to reduce any additional stress and prepare our body for its next training day.
Ice Baths and Epsom Salts
Coldwater immersion is a popular strategy to recover from exercise. Although the thought of immersing your aching body in ice water after an intense workout might seem scary, this will actually help reduce soreness and inflammation for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold water, your body begins to warm up, causing blood flow to return faster and shuttles away any waste byproducts from exercise.
If the cold isn’t your thing, try soaking in a warm bath with a few cups of Epsom salts, Epsom salts are high in magnesium, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, magnesium calms the process, making it an effective natural treatment for sore muscles, aching joints, and other systemic stress — an effective way to help ensure a speedy recovery.
Sufficient sleep is the key to your recovery success, when our heads hit that pillow and you drift to sleep, your body undergoes processes enabling restoration, maintenance and adaptation. Sleep length, quality and timing are the primary factors affecting the overall recuperative effect of sleep. They affect our ability to train, maximise the training response, perform and recover. Capitalising on the restorative power of sleep will help maximise our energy, mood and decision-making skills. As well as reducing the risk of overtraining, enhance resistance to illness and improve recovery from injury. As you can see sleep is no joke and getting eight hours of shut-eye per night may be important when you want to avoid any training-related complications.
Tie all of these steps together and those jelly legs will be back to normal in no time, ignore these strategies and you won’t only hinder your training but you might be setting yourself up for injury.