As the popular saying goes "no pain no gain!" You may be wondering what you can do to bounce back from the pain so that you can walk without feeling like you you just had a car wreck. Stiffness sets in pretty quickly after working out- especially if you are just starting out or adding new reps etc. It's very important to make sure you are repairing muscle between workouts however, too much downtime can make it hard to stay in shape as well. You want the muscle to repair as quickly as possible without the downtime and pain in between so you can get back to your fitness routine as quickly as possible.
Did you know that muscle soreness is actually from micro-tears in your muscles?
How can we minimize the pain and repair more quickly? I always thought it was mostly from lactic acid build-up but recent studies say it is actually more than that. Muscle soreness can be from lactic acid build-up but more than likely it's also from having tight and knotty myofascia.
Muscles grow and become stronger by tearing and repairing. That's' how building muscle and endurance works. We want that, but what we don't want is the downtime in between. Downtime means less working out- and less working out means less progress. The faster your muscles can bounce back will be directly related to how often you can work out without causing your muscles damage. Here is what I have found to help speed up muscle recovery. In other words less pain and more working out.
Tip 1. Work out more regularly. Working out regularly helps the body get used to whatever activity you choose. If you give up because of the pain then consider going a little lighter in your workouts in the beginning. Consistency is more important than difficulty when starting a healthy exercise regimen.
Muscle memory only lasts for about 5 days. That means if you are only doing sporadic workouts (like after your pain goes away), then you may not see the shapely results you are going after including losing weight and building muscle. Also, if the sporadic irregular workout is occurring in your life- you're likely not giving your body enough time to tear & repair and then build upon that foundation
You want your body to get used to the interruptions (working out) so it can heal (quickly as possible) and bounce back. If you give in to the pain or perhaps are overworking muscles to early on then you will instead feel more like you are starting over every week or two due to the downtime of feeling you you can't move- not a very good motivator. This means less flexibility and more pain every time you start again. Luckily there are a few things I have learned about speeding up recovery times. I have tried them and been very surprised by how fast they work!
Tip 2. Choose anti-inflammatory foods Eat a lot of fruits, veggies, and legumes. Plants really are amazing because they REDUCE the inflammatory process. That comes in very handy when you want your body to flush out the toxins and heal the micro-tears that happen when we exercise thus producing the pain we feel between workouts.
Tip 3. Use hot & cold therapy. You can ice an injury and it will go down, but icing myself all the time would be well- not super fun. What I do instead is get into a warm bath and turn on the jets. This allows the myofascial to get loosened up a bit and that helps lower the pain considerably. I also highly recommend a foam roller. Studies have shown that foam rolling considerably reduces inflammation and pain in the muscles.
Tip 4. Use Me and a Tree Skin Care Runners Recovery "Muscle EEZ Therapy Lotion". The Camphor, Menthol, German Chamomile, Frankincense, and other Botanicals in this particular blend brings down inflammation and is popular with cross trainers and other fitness enthusiasts who count on having more good days than bad. The vapor and cooling /warming effects deeply penetrate the muscles helping to alleviate inflammation. It really works. I count on it for all of my lower back and shoulder issues. Runners, yoga instructors, powerlifters, etc need that extra edge, and if you suffer from chronic pain such as arthritis or any muscular pain- you will appreciate this soothing cream. You can feel it working instantly- and the real magic happens the next day when you wake up with much less or even without any more pain.
Tip 5. Is it tight or over-strained muscles? Cold is for strained and inflamed muscles and warm is for tight and painful muscles. You can also do hydrotherapy which is going back and forth from hot to cold water. Honestly, there are times when I can't tell the difference between sore and strained because the muscle pain from simply beginning to train your muscles to a new routine can make for some pretty sore muscles. That's why it's great to have a cooling AND heating cream that aides in both kinds of micro muscle trauma. You can apply these hot/cold deep penetrating muscle creams directly to the sore area. The essential oils in combination with the menthol help bring down pain a lot. If you need that extra-deep penetrating action for especially sore muscles you can open up the pores on your skin beforehand by applying the cream after taking a warm bath/ shower. This will allow for more of the cooling-heating sensation to work due to having more open pores (do not use if pregnant or nursing).
I did this last week when I suffered a set back from working my rhomboid and intercostal muscles on a pilates machine. I used a small ball and foam roller to break up the adhesions (myofascia) in that area. I took a warm bath and applied the cream to dry skin after getting out of the bath. I woke up the next morning pain-free and able to take a deep breath and bend over comfortably and resume my workouts. Here's the one I use here
Tip 6. Use passive stretching in place of hard stretching. Stretching is a great way to help your muscles recover before soreness sets in. You can certainly reduce the pain much faster if you remember that muscles get tight after exercise- and remember to stretch afterward. Always stretch after warming up with a light bit of movement. Do not do any deep stretching on cold muscles. Stretching the myofascial (soft tissue and membrane around each muscle) will aid in muscle pain and recovery if done properly. Sometimes (especially in acute pain) less is actually more. I think of stretching as a form of meditation. Stretching is a great way to slow down the mind and body and enjoy the calm time that we as Americans seldom indulge in. Don't rush stretching. Make it a sacred space. Give it as a gift to yourself. It helps the mind, as well as the body, heal a lot.
Tip 7. Change up your workout routine. If you are a swimmer, try running a few days a week. If you are a runner, try swimming. If you like Pilates, try stretching if you like Yoga, try Pilates a few days between. Variety helps give muscles a break and work out new muscle groups. Keep it interesting and try new things.
In summary. You definitely want to work on minimizing the pain and speed up the muscle recovery of your workouts. By starting exercise slow and building up more endurance over time along with eating right to reduce inflammation, using hot and cold showers and baths along with heating-cooling anti-inflammation creams to aid in repair, and stretching regularly, you will enjoy the benefits of a healthy life-promoting workout. See you on the track!
Have another tip that works for you? Share it below so we can see how you are enjoying exercise and muscle recovery!