Do you ever feel so sore the day after working out that stretching for the tv remote hurts? We have all been guilty of overdoing it at the gym and ignoring any post workout recovery work. This often results in what is known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This tends to kick in around 6-8 hours after working out and can peak at around 48 hours (although this timeline varies for every individual). DOMS can hit anywhere in the body (although it does tend to hit the legs hardest!) that has recently been subjected to intense physical activity. You know that feeling of struggling to walk down the stairs? Hello DOMS!
So what can we do to avoid DOMS??
Recovery is key! The Recovery Principle states that an athlete requires sufficient time to recuperate from training and competing. Many consider an athlete’s capacity to recover from a workout as important as the workout itself. This recovery refers to both the rest immediately following physical activity and longer time periods.
This principle is not solely for top level athletes. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, it is imperative that you give precedence to your post workout recovery. Here are some tips to get you started.
Warm Up Properly
Never skip your warm up! A simple warm up, even walking or cycling for 10 minutes prior to training, can considerably reduce any soreness in the days following training. Foam rolling is also a great way to prepare your body for your workout as it can enhance your range of motion and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Only begin your workout once you are feeling warm and strong. DOMS is linked to muscle damage and if you start intense exercise before warming up, it is a sure-fire way to kick off DOMS, worse still you could even cause injury. I always vary my warm up based on my upcoming workout, thus ensuring that I warm up all the right muscle groups and ranges of motion.
For any intense training program, it is extremely important to include deliberate rest days. More is not always better, and we must remember that we do not get stronger in the gym, we actually get stronger when we rest. This will vary depending on your personality, body type and the training that you do. Listen to your body! Rest days can also be extremely useful and productive for some mental reflection. Exercise inflicts stress on our bodies (and minds!) and the purpose of recovery is to recuperate from that stress in order for our bodies to adapt and grow stronger. Take advantage of your rest days, book a massage or even get down to a spa and hit the sauna! I try to schedule sports massages throughout the year to keep my body feeling good!
Proper nutrition goes hand in hand with working out correctly. Eating in the right way will also promote recovery. We need to ensure that we get sufficient proteins (to restore muscle mass and assist in the recovery of damaged muscles) and carbohydrates (to give our bodies the necessary energy supply).
Post workout nutrition varies depending on your goals and the type of physical activity you are engaging in. We need to consume a combination of proteins and carbs. If I do a super high intensity workout I tend to eat a higher percentage of carbs, conversely if I do more of a strength training programme my post workout nutrition will focus more on protein, but I still do focus on including good carbs. I am not a fan of supplementation at all and therefore try and avoid taking any protein supplements if I can. If I know I am not going to make it home for a while after training I will try and bring a snack with me, often a banana and some peanut butter or a couple of boiled eggs and an apple.
Exercising while dehydrated can lead to muscle damage and can delay the body’s ability to repair itself. We should always try and drink more on days that we train. Always ensure that you start your training session hydrated, this will help in improving overall performance. Try to avoid sugary sports drinks, if you want something other than water, make your own sports drink! I love to just add some lemon and mint to my water.
Always Stretch Out After Training
Stretching can be one of the most effective ways to avoid an onset of DOMS, it can kickstart your muscle recovery by reducing lactic acid and improving your circulation. Foam rolling after your workout can also be extremely effective as it can help to relax overworked and tight muscles and stimulate blood flow.
Stop Counting Sheep
Sleep debt can have serious repercussions on both our workout intensity and recovery time. Sleep is not purely for relaxing, it also gives our bodies the downtime needed for recuperation and restoration. Without sufficient sleep our brain struggles to function as sharply and we can find it difficult to concentrate and we can even struggle with coordination drills. Motivation levels are also directly connected with sleep, these are always highest when we are mentally alert and well rested.
Make efforts to improve the quality of your sleep wherever possible. Investing in a good mattress and pillows will make a huge difference. Also take into account the temperature of your room, the lighting and any potential noises. Try and create an environment catered to tranquil sleep. Buy yourself and your loved one some new pyjamas! Urban Surfer has some great styles available for both men and women! As it starts getting colder pop them on the radiator before you get into bed and get into bed feeling all snuggly and warm!
Your rest days don’t have to be spent horizontally! If you feel up for it, including some active recovery into your training regimen can promote faster recovery. Active recovery consists of light movements, such as walking, gentle cycle rides, light yoga or even mobility drills, anything that can stimulate blood flow and improve circulation to the muscles. I try and include at least one yoga session a week and a light swim or walk. Active recovery can be a great opportunity to get creative and have some fun! Find some local hiking paths or a nice gently cycle path and get outside and enjoy nature!