If you’ve never been so sore from a workout that even getting out of bed is a chore, you probably can count the number of times you’ve exercised on one hand. There have been occasions where I’ve had to go to work without my shoes tied because of my hamstrings and glutes were so sore.
After Thursday’s bootcamp session, I’m sure a lot of Ageless members were cursing Pete’s name the next morning. It’s not that the workout was overly hard. The soreness stems more from the 4 week hiatus we took from bootcamp.
As you think of all the ways you’d like to kill Pete, just ponder this for a second. The soreness will eventually subside. And believe it or not, there will eventually be a time where you won’t even experience muscle soreness from a workout.
Why you are sore:
Exercise, when done correctly, challenges the body. It pushes it past its normalcy. From a physiological standpoint, exercise essentially tears muscle fibers apart leading to an inflammatory cascade that eventually leads to a remodeling process (stronger muscle fibers). That process is essential if you’re interested in losing weight. In fact, that process is why high intensity interval training (HIIT) burns calories for up to 24 hours after the workout is finished. The body is consuming energy while it repairs itself. So soreness during the early stages of training is actually a good thing. Side note:Once you’ve been exercising for awhile, you shouldn’t be sore after every workout. If you are, you’re either pushing yourself too hard, or you have an injury.
3 Ways to alleviate your soreness
1) Perform light cardio for 20-30 minutes the next day
The key word in that statement is LIGHT. It should not be a workout. It should be relaxing. You should barely break a sweat. In fact, one of the easiest ways to gauge the intensity of the workout is to hop on the treadmill and watch your favorite tv show. If you can’t keep up with what’s going on in your show, you’re going too hard. If you exercise with a partner, you should be able to keep an in-depth conversation going throughout the entire 20-30 minutes.
The light cardio aids in the removal of the waste products, as well as brings oxygen and nutrients to the site of soreness. By improving circulation to the area without creating more damage, you’re essentially unclogging a drain. By the time you hope off the treadmill, you should feel like a different person and your range of motion should have vastly improved.
2) Perform 15-20 minutes of light stretching and mobility work
Once again, the key word is light. The last thing we want to do is to go too hard and create more damage. Many people actually stretch to the point of pain which causes more microtears within the muscle fiber and slows down the healing process. Light stretching improves circulation much like light cardio does. However, in addition to improved circulation, if done correctly, it also reduces the tone of the muscle thereby relaxing the muscle.
Pick 8 or so stretches that stretch all of the major muscle groups. Perform 1 stretch for 15-20 seconds. Rest 20 seconds. Move to the next stretch and repeat. Perform this circuit 3-4 times and call it a day.
A few key points about stretching:
- Don’t stretch to the point of pain. It should be a mild discomfort at most.
- Exhale as you sink into the stretch.
- Control your breathing and make your breath come from your diaphragm (stomach). Deep, slow breathing actually relaxes the body and decreases sympathetic stimulation. This results in even more relaxed muscles. Meditation would be an excellent choice while you stretch.
Whether you like active-isolated stretching, PNF stretching, or regular static, hold for 20-30 seconds stretching doesn’t matter. They all have their pros and cons as well as research supporting their benefits. The important part is that you stretch.
If you’re still confused about stretching, check out our Yog-E class starting this winter. This is a 30 minute class that takes you through a wide variety of stretches, meditative poses, and corrective exercises designed to improve your recovery, relax your mind and body, and make you look better.
This is the most expensive option. However, it’s also the best. Massage works much like cardio in that it improves circulation. However, it also improves tissue quality by releasing trigger points within your muscles and fascia. A 30 minute massage, even though painful, will do wonders for your sore legs.
Around 5 years ago, physical therapists created a device they called the “poor man’s massage”: foam rollers. We have two at the gym. They look like noodles you’d see at the pool, but they’re much denser. If you have the guts, you can try them out. We’ll gladly show you how to foam roll your trigger points. However, I will warn you that foam rolling is extremely painful. There have been times when it has brought water to my eyes.
2 More Intense Methods
Usually the following two methods are reserved for athletes who have multi-million dollar contracts. Their bodies are their livelihood. If you’d like to try them out, let us know and we can give you the specifics.
1) Warm Epsom Salt Baths
2) Hot/Cold Contrast Showers
Remember, the worst thing you can possibly do for muscle soreness is nothing at all. That’s a guaranteed prescription for muscle soreness for 3-4 days. The second worst thing is to take anti-inflammatory medications. Circulation is the key. I have yet to have muscle soreness than circulation hasn’t improved immensely.