Do you ever want to workout but find that you can’t stand up without wincing? Are there moments where the thought of doing another squat or push up is enough to bring tears to your eyes? Being sore is definitely a normal part of being active, but there are steps you can take to better care for your body and speed up your sore muscle recovery.
Recovery should be an essential part of your fitness process. You should put just as much emphasis on recovery as you do on preparing for and executing exercises. Your body is like a well-oiled machine — if you take care of it, it will take care of you!
9 Ways to Speed Up Sore Muscle Recovery
1. Roll Out, My Homies
CrossFitters have been swearing by “rolling out” using a “foam roller” — quite literally a large piece of firm foam — for years. Foam rolling actually has a scientific name — self-myofascial release. Foam rolling essentially involves using the piece of foam to manipulate and “roll out” or massage specific parts of your body to target muscle soreness. This enhances sore muscle recovery by releasing sore or tight muscles and helping you return to 100 percent quicker.
To learn more about foam rolling, check out this great piece by Breaking Muscle on How to Foam Roll. You can purchase your own foam roller at most sporting good stores or through online retailers for a relatively low price.
2. Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Drinking enough water is essential to an effective recovery. Dehydration can contribute to sore muscles and even DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Be sure to drink water before, during and after your workout for maximum recovery efforts.
3. Try Active Recovery
Although it might seem counterproductive, sometime the best way to relieve sore muscles is by moving them around. According to this study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, employing active recovery tactics can reduce lactic acid build up in the muscles, i.e. what causes your muscles to get sore.
If you’re employing active recovery techniques, stick to short, low-impact exercises such as walking, a light jog or light cycling.
4. Try a Mobility Program
Find that you’re constantly struggling with tight muscles and flexibility issues? Sore muscles may not be wholly to blame.
Many different mobility programs offer daily and weekly programming for athletes that struggle with tight, inflexible muscles. Sign up for a month or try out someone else’s subscription for faster recovery and overall better movement.
5. Drink a Protein Shake
According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, drinking a protein shake right after a workout is a sure fire way to help your muscles recover quickly. Be sure to avoid protein powders packed with lots of added sugars or unnecessary ingredients. Don’t forget your shaker bottle!
6. You Mix Recovery With the Coconut
Coconut water can be a great alternative to sports drinks when it comes to recovery. Although just plain water is great for staying hydrated, coconut water can be a good option when it comes to replenishing the potassium your body loses during an intense workout sesh, minus all the added sugar.
7. If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It — Don’t Forget to Stretch
Sometimes, the old-fashioned way of doing things can be the best. Stretching, especially in conjunction with some of the other methods listed here like staying hydrated and using a foam roller, is still an effective way to loosen tight muscles.
When you’re stretching, don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t do stretches that make you uncomfortable or that cause you pain.
8. Get Some Shut Eye
Sleep may possibly be the most important aspect of your recovery. While you sleep, your body performs muscle repairs. This time also allows your body to rest while conserving energy and digesting and storing food properly, just to name a few. Turns out your restful night is full of activities inside of your body!
Don’t believe how fast sleep deprivation can affect your performance inside the gym? Check out some sleep statistics in our piece on sleep deprivation and get ready to hit the sheets.
9. Fuel Your Body Properly
As much as we all hate to admit it, so much of what happens when we exercise, including our recovery process, depends on the type of fuel we’re putting in our bodies. Eating healthy, whole, nutrient-dense foods improves your bodily function on every level, including your sore muscle recovery.
If you find that you’re struggling to recover quickly after a workout, try improving your diet for a few weeks and keep a journal of the results. Lessen your intake of processed sugar and focus more on vegetables, fruit and grass-fed meats and seafood. You’ll see many enjoyable results, one of which is a faster and more efficient recovery process.