So many of us know that feeling. We wake up, go to put our two feet on the floor, and there it is; muscle pain. We try to do our part by staying active throughout the day and even having healthy go-to snacks for every occasion, but unfortunately this is how our bodies thank us. What can easily make us think that we’ve done something wrong and that we need to stop, is actually our bodies signaling us that there’s more we need to do. More to do to get faster muscle recovery after exercise.
Why Do I Hurt?
When we exercise, not only are we testing the limits of our joints and bones, but we’re also creating small micro-tears in our muscles. This leads to longer times of muscle recovery after exercise. The burning sensation in the weight room or on that long run let us know that we’re on the right track, but also of what’s to come. Many people may tend to think that the soreness setting in within 1-2 days is a sign of a job well done. However, intense soreness and a lack of mobility can often mean that we haven’t done all that we should’ve. Our bodies require a lot of energy, for everything from fuel to recovery, and it’s up to us to help them out a little bit.
In order for all of us to maximize our efforts, minimize the chance of injury, and prime our bodies for the next workout, we need to prioritize our post-workout routine. Need some help? Here’s a list of five places to start for faster muscle recovery after exercise.
Stretch It Out
One of the best forms of muscle recovery after exercise is stretching. Even though it can hurt, stretching is imperative to recovery. All soreness aside, scheduling time to stretch before and after a workout will help eliminate the possibility of injury. Yes, our quads being on fire after an intense leg day is one thing, but a pulled or torn hamstring is another. Plan on incorporating at least 10-15 minutes of stretching to decrease soreness. Foam rolling is also a great way to relieve tension and break up knots that may form in your muscles. While stretching and foam rolling aren’t always known for being the most comfortable things, they’ll surely help you feel better in the long run. Feel free to go ahead and treat yourself to a massage after too!
After an intense workout, our bodies begin to crave specific nutrients. As part of a great muscle recovery after exercise meal, reaching for healthy snacks rich in protein and carbohydrates will take you from feeling sluggish, to feeling like you can take on the rest of your day. Eggs, lean meats like chicken or seafood, or even seeds and nuts are all great sources of protein. Carbohydrates are also important to restore glycogen levels and provide our bodies with energy for recovery. Dried fruit, vegetables, and granola are all healthy options. Whatever you decide on, make sure it’s real food and that it has a purpose in your recovery.
This may sound like the last thing you want to hear right now, but light movement can do even more to promote recovery on those beloved rest days. What’s known as “active recovery”, movements like yoga, walking, very light jogging, or even riding a bike, can help increase blood flow and circulation to your muscles. And this of course leads to faster muscle recovery after exercise.
Get Some Zzz’s
Sleep can easily be one of the most important things in our recovery tool belt. As you may already know, not getting enough sleep will negatively affect your mood, efforts at weight loss, stress levels, focus, and blood pressure, among several other things. During deep sleep, our bodies are working hard to repair themselves and are getting us ready for the next round of activity we’ll be subjecting it to. In addition to at least a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night, a 20 minute nap at some point during the day will work wonders.
Give Yourself a Break!
Everyone has heard the age-old saying “No pain, no gain!” It’s time to create a new mantra around sensible workout routines. It’s okay to push ourselves and get outside of our comfort zones. This is important in order to prime our bodies for mental and physical growth, but this shouldn’t be done to the point where we’re down for the count days after. If we consistently beat ourselves up, our bodies learn to compensate for the damage rather than helping us repair and recover. Whether it’s going heavy in the weight room or going on long runs, be sure to leave some time between the intense workouts. If you can set aside 2-3 days to focus on another muscle group, active recovery, or simply rest, you’ll be in the clear.
At the end of the day, we need to make some time for ourselves, open our ears up a little bit, and listen to what our bodies are telling us. The more in tune we are, the more we can help our bodies and the recovery process. Put those two feet firmly on the floor, seize the day, and use these tips the next time you feel like pushing your limits.
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