My Top 5 Ways to Reduce Soreness
There is one thing that either keeps people away from the gym or makes them hesitant to go back. It’s the soreness that can be brought on afterwards. That feeling in the legs when you can’t make it up the stairs or feeling like you can’t raise up your arms. All of this can be expected with intense training, especially if you’re a little fresh on the gym scene.
While soreness will typically get better as you progress and become more adapted, so long as you’re hitting things with intensity, you’ll more than likely still end up with some soreness. However, the levels at which you experience this will come down to how well you recover from that training.
If we don’t recover, we end up sorer than we should, which could eventually be a sign of over training. Thus, it’s important that you take your recovery just as seriously as your workouts.
In this post, I’m going to cover my top five ways in which you can recover and reduce soreness. Let’s get into it!
Why You Get Sore
First, we need to understand why you’re even getting sore in the first place. As you work out or lift weights, this puts mechanical stress on your muscle tissue. This stress causes tiny, microscopic tears in the belly of your muscle. When this happens, a signal is sent to the brain to recover these areas, but that’s not all! While recovering, the body makes them stronger and more resilient so that it can withstand that force next time. Now, part of the soreness is going to come from those tiny tears. The extent at which they are healed is based on your effort in recovering from the damage. If it can’t fully recover, well then, you’re going to be stowed up for a few days.
In addition, there is inflammation that is associated with those tears as the body allocates blood for recovery. Just like a scrape or cut on your arm, it will be a little sore for a few days.
This concept is often referred to as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. It’s called this because you don’t feel it the day of. You feel it one, maybe two days after the actual exercise. This is again, the body’s natural response to tearing up those muscles.
Now that you’ve created this idea in your head of avoiding soreness, let’s talk about how you can recover.
While we can’t eliminate the chances of getting sore, we can reduce them. One of the best ways will come down to the things you put into your body. First up is the most important. Protein.
Protein is essentially the fuel or building material that is used to recover those tiny tears in your muscles. Think of it like lumber. If you only have so much lumber for building a house, too little will lead to some problems. You might have a hole in the floor or be missing something for the roof. Now, if you have what you need, you can get the job done no problem. Well, the same goes for your body. Having enough protein is the sure-fire way to help with soreness and recovery.
A general rule of thumb for a beginner who is lifting weights would be 1g of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 200lbs you would need to consume 200g of protein. This can be a higher amount, but that depends on your experience in the gym and individual needs.
Protein doesn’t always have to be a chicken breast either. There are tons of sources for your needs. This includes some dairy, lean red meats, lean pork, turkey, and some nuts. In addition, you can take a protein powder to help boost recovery. Just make sure it’s a clean one like 1UP Nutrition’s protein powder, as some contain fillers and other fluff ingredients.
Next to protein, sleep is a must have. Yes, everybody sleeps, but do you sleep well enough to recover from an intense workout? The standard recommendation is eight hours of sleep every night. Now, this doesn’t specify getting eight hours of QUALITY sleep. Just because you were down for eight hours doesn’t mean you were getting the right kind of sleep. There are phases and cycles to sleep that need to happen for your body to properly recover from stress. There are certain stipulations that you’ll need to make sure this happens.
First, you need to avoid screens and blue light at minimum an hour before bed. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, thus your body won’t start naturally producing melatonin. You’ve heard of melatonin as a supplement, but your body makes it when we allow it to. This is designed to sync up with the sun setting, but most of us end the day in front of a laptop or television screen. Therefore, you end up not sleeping as well as you need to.
Caffeine before bed should be avoided as well. While you might fall asleep after consuming something like this, you aren’t really all the way asleep. If you find that you wake up tired in the mornings, then you may be consuming caffeine too close to bedtime.
You need the room DARK. Our body gets its best sleep when the room is pitch black dark, just like the times before light bulbs! This again allows us to enter the proper phases of sleep that will lead to ideal muscle recovery.
Last but not least, you’ll sleep better in a cold room. Yes, that may be hard in the summer, but when you can, allow your room to get a little colder. It signals to the body that it’s time for bed in addition to all of the above mentioned.
All in all, you need to prep yourself for sleep. Get a routine that will allow you to get the best sleep of your life, and you’ll notice a significant drop in your soreness.
This one may be new to some, but cryotherapy can be of great benefit for reducing soreness. These machines get into subzero temperatures as a way of stimulating certain processes in the body. The shock of this shifts the body into recovery mode and it starts working on fixing any damage. While it may sound a little crazy, the benefits are out of this world.
Highly underrated and underutilized is the recovery day. This is a day that is dedicated to recovering from any damage done in previous workouts. Some people may take rest days, or they may go to the gym to work on what is called active recovery.
This is just a way of getting in extra movement that is designed to help recover versus breakdown. For example, you may perform some low-impact cardio to help get the blood flowing. This will shuttle nutrients throughout the body to help with recovery. This is also a good time to work on flexibility and stretching. If you’re stiff or sore from a workout, one of the best ways to fix it is to move around more. It would also be a good time to work on some manual therapy like foam rolling or massage as these things can help reduce soreness as well.
It’s a day without expectations that can help you move and feel better for the next training session.
Soreness can really scare some people off. There’s nothing worse than a beginner going way to hard and never wanting to come back for fear of pain. If you keep things within your scope of experience, take into consideration your nutrition, sleep better, and actively strive for recovery – you’ll be golden. We can’t get rid of it completely, but we can reduce it using some of these tips!