Written by Fahiza Danjuma
Image by @jasminendaniels
Familiar with that achy feeling that creeps up on you after an intense workout? Minor cases feel like you bumped into something; extreme ones feel like you were kicked by a horse. As we’re all here battling to keep healthy, functioning and progressing in this life, I’m here to share a few tips on how to reduce workout soreness.
First, let’s point straight at the huge pink elephant in your routine… RECOVERY, or a lack thereof. As an old training proverb states, there is truly no overtraining, just under recovering; so, use these tips to help optimise your recovery.
Schedule your training according to your recovery
Your training schedule plays a huge part in how sore you can get. Don’t be eager to reach your goals and apply high-intensity workouts on consecutive days. This is a mistake and should be avoided at all costs. Your central nervous system needs adequate recovery between sessions. This does not mean that you cannot train hard, you can, but it’s more dependent on how you train. For example, having three full body intensive training sessions back-to-back is not conducive to your recovery, rather have a rest day in between or do cardio.
Active rest days
I swear by active rest days for all my clients. It probably sounds extremely counterproductive that one of the best ways to reduce muscle soreness caused by physical activity would be more physical activity. But it’s true. Recovery from intense training is more than just taking the day off. In fact, that could be more detrimental to your progress than anything. Active rest days are the best methods to encourage blood flow, stress reduction, muscular restoration, and mobility, which will help reduce your soreness. I suggest, walking and a light stretching session.
Make sure your muscles are resting well enough. When dealing with soreness, trying to improve your sleep routine can give your body better opportunities to rest and recover. Nothing less than 8 hours of sleep is always recommended. Even an extra hour more than your usual amount can make a huge difference!
Fuelling your body with the right foods
Viewing food as fuel, instead of creating unhealthy attachments can be a game changer for many. Don’t be that person training so hard and not eating enough or the right foods, you’ll feel weak, sore, and unnecessarily achy. Your body needs good food to repair and nourish itself. If you need to, please put alarms on your phone to remind yourself to eat regularly.
Saunas & steam rooms
This is for my David Lloyd, Third Space, John Reed lovers; heat can help get through muscular pain. Saunas and steam rooms offer similar detoxification and energy for your body. Steam rooms use heat and moisture, while most saunas are dry heat. Both will help you relax and recover.
To aid in your recovery after significant soreness or extensive training, using a sauna or steam room will provide relaxed muscles, and potentially reduce soreness. If your gym has a sauna and/or steam room, it’s best to use post-workout to reduce any soreness.
I will say this, it is a luxury and not particularly a necessity but if your gym doesn’t already come with a sauna or steam room, I would recommend investing in paying a visit at least once a month, especially if you train hard.
Foam roll & stretch
Using a foam roller followed by stretching will help you relieve muscular knots after exercising. If you don’t know what foam rolling is, think of it as a self-massage that helps roll out tight spots to make your body feel brand new. The best time to use a foam roller is post-exercise. It alleviates soreness, reduces inflammation that occurs during the muscle repair process, aids in muscle repair recovery, helps injury prevention, tension, and tightness, and increases blood flow and elasticity of muscle tissue.
Foam rolling the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, pectoral group, back and lats are the key areas everyone should include in their recovery routine which will have the ability to give you the best bang for your recovery buck. Spend 2-3 minutes on each muscle group, hell, spend as much time as you need, as there is no overdoing this aspect of recovery. I recommend doing this three times a week or after every workout. My top tip is to focus on your breathing throughout each movement (big inhales, big exhales).This should be followed by stretching the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, pectoral group and lats, each movement should be held for up to 1 minute.