You know that stiff, achy feeling that comes the day after a tough workout? There’s a name for it: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). And believe it or not, there are better ways to recover from DOMS so you can get back in the game safely. Check out these tips to help your muscles repair and refuel:
Keep Moving! Cool Down and perform active recovery. Immediately after exercise, slow down, but don’t stop completely. Continue to move around for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps remove lactic acid from your muscles, and may reduce muscles stiffness. Active recovery is easy, gentle movement that improves circulation and helps the muscles repair and refuel faster. Add gentle stretching to help reduce joint stiffness.
Roll it Out! Much of the soreness that goes along with exercise occurs when our muscles and connective tissue become knotted. Rolling out muscles (with a foam roller, for example) can help remove these knots, adhesions and sore spots. (Or, have a massage, which helps reduce stiffness associated with muscle repair.)
Hydrate! You lose a lot of fluid during exercise. Water is an excellent choice for replenishing fluids—it supports every metabolic function in the body. You can also gain surprising anti-inflammatory and muscle recovery benefits from chocolate milk and tart cherry juice. But cut back on the post-workout alcohol—research suggests it could reduce the body’s ability to recover.
Eat well! You need proper nutrition for your body to recover, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. Eat high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates within 60 minutes of finishing your workout. Better yet, eat protein in the morning, even before your workout, and again before bed. Amino acids are the building blocks of tissue, and protein helps to rebuild and maintain muscles.
Rest! Resting after a hard workout allows the recovery process to happen at a natural pace. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for recovery time; age and fitness level are important in determining how much rest we really need.
Take an ice bath! Some athletes use ice baths or contrast water therapy (alternating hot and cold showers) to reduce muscle soreness. Some research suggests that submerging into cold water after working out could reduce soreness and inflammation.
Listen! The best thing you can do to recover quickly is to listen to your body. If you feel unusually tired or notice decreased performance, it may be time to take a break.