One of the important things you need to do when exercising is allow your body to recover. This is because when you rest your body repairs, rebuilds and strengthens.
When you do an exercise your body is not used to it your muscles become fatigued (through volume) and the muscle suffers microtrauma which is small tears to the individual muscle fibres (through load), it is this that stimulates the repair process and causes muscle growth (the size of the muscle fibres increases – hypertrophy). Over training and not allowing your muscles to recover can be preventing you from gaining more muscle mass.
When you feel pain after working out, either the next day or the day after this is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. Whilst you do need to allow time for your muscles to recover there are a few things you can do to help increase the recovery time as you may not want to stay away from working out for too long.
There are 2 different forms of recovery; short term and long term. Short term is the time between your work outs and long term is what needs to be built into your training programme and can include days and weeks.
Here are some ways you can help your body with its short term recovery:
Split your routine up
Work different parts of your body each day. This way you don’t have to take a day off after you do weight training as long as you are not working the same muscles 2 days in a row then you can train every day. If you do compound exercises remember that you are working more than 1 muscle and joint at a time so ensure you train different muscles groups the following day. It is recommended that you take at least 1 day off per week though.
Get 8 hours of sleep, when the body is sleeping it uses the time to recuperate and a lack of sleep can result, amongst other things, in poor performance and lack of energy.
Soak in the Bath
Have a bath and add 1 cup of sea salt to your bath, and soak for 20-30mins. The hot bath will increase circulation and the sea salt will help remove the toxins and ease your muscle soreness. Use Dead Sea Salt or Epsom salts.
Have a Massage
Go and have a massage, a lot of athletes have massages straight after they have performed to help aid the healing process and enhance function.
Grab a foam roller and give yourself a massage. Foam rollers use your own bodyweight to apply pressure to any tender areas, knots etc. You find the tender area then you place the foam roller in position and use your body to roll the roller over the area for 30-60 seconds to help stretch the muscle out and reduce any pain or knots. The foam rollers are available to buy but a lot of gyms now have them as well.
Take 5 minutes to warm up so that your you increase your body temperature and the blood flow to your muscles, it also helps mobilise your joints and increases your range of motion and decreases the risk of injury.
Cool down and post workout Stretch
The cool down will help your body remove waste products such as lactic acid that are produced during your work out. Cooling down and stretching can also help with DOMS. Stretch each of the muscles you used during your workout for 30 seconds to lengthen them.
Protein and Carbs post workout
Have protein and carbs as soon as you, try to eat within 20mins-1hr after your work out to help your glycogen stores and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Exercise depletes the muscles of its glycogen stores so help your muscles recover by eating the right food after your workout, something quick and easy straight after your work out could be a whey protein shake with a banana in it. It is not necessary to do this if you have a rest day or more time before your next workout as you’re your glycogen stores will have plenty of time to refill.
5-10 min Ice Bath
To me this is not as inviting as a nice hot bath with dead sea salts but it is another way to help muscle recovery. It reduces muscle soreness, inflammation and strain. Run a bath with cold water, add ice so that the temperature is between 12-15 C and stay in for 5-10 minutes. The reasoning behind ice baths is that your blood vessels will constrict in the cold and when you warm up new blood rushes to the area and improves circulation and flushes out the waste products which helps the healing process. Some swear by it and other say it doesn’t work so why not give it a try and see if it works for you. Brrrr.