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How to Recover from Muscle Soreness when Nothing Else Works

Dr. Celeste Holder

06/16/2020
By Dr. Celeste Holder

You’re trembling, aching, and feeling your body’s not-so-gentle reminder of how hard you went yesterday. Pushing yourself is good, but you need to give your body that little extra TLC the next day. Doing multiple high-intensity workouts a week is entirely doable as long as you take the time to rest and recover. No matter how well-planned your warm-ups and cool-downs are, sometimes you can’t avoid the soreness the next day. To get stronger, fitter, and faster, you need to allow your body to recover from muscle soreness.

Woman in fitness exercise training needing to recover from muscle soreness.
No Matter How Well-Planned Your Warm-Ups And Cool-Downs Are, Sometimes You Can’t Avoid The Soreness The Next Day (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When you’re sore, it’s your body telling you that you have damaged your muscle tissues. Muscle soreness, or delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the stiffness or pain that you feel several hours after you exercise. Exercise causes damage in the muscle that triggers a response in the body to repair that damage. Over time, the process of stress and recovery is what improves your health and fitness. You need to let your body recover after heavy exercise and find relief for muscle soreness.

Why Is Muscle Recovery So Important?

Recovery is a super important part of the whole workout process. Pain is not always gain. Recovery from training is one of the most vital aspects of physical fitness and overall well-being. You have to give your body time and help to recover from muscle soreness.

Your muscles don’t grow while you’re working out; all that goodness takes place during the resting period. When you’re training, specifically weightlifting and bodyweight exercises, it causes micro-tears in your muscles. Without proper recovery, those tears in your muscles can grow and leave your muscles feeling inflamed and exhausted. When micro-tears heal, your muscles grow.

6 Ways To Recover From Muscle Soreness

So, you’re feeling yesterday’s workout session. What can you do to speed up recovery? Everyone is unique, and what may work for one person, may not for another. Instead of dealing with fatigue and pain, find a recovery method that works for you. It may look like a combination of tools or something more specific. Let’s explore six ways you can ease muscle soreness to help your body heal faster and feel stronger.

1. Eat Healthy Foods For Muscle Recovery

After a solid training session, you need to refuel your body to repair tissue and get stronger. Anything that speeds up recovery helps to minimize muscle soreness. Certain recovery foods contain specific nutrients that help you to recover faster and reduce next-day stiffness. What you eat post-workout gives your muscles the energy they need to repair.

Happy couple in gym feeding each other with fresh salad at gym.
Anything That Speeds Up Recovery Helps To Minimize Muscle Soreness (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Some of the best foods for muscle recovery are:

  • Tart Cherries
  • Chicken 
  • Salmon
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Spinach 
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Water

2. Replace Fluids Lost

Water is a crucial nutrient. During exercise, you lose lots of fluids. As much as you can drink water during exercise, filling up after you’ve finished a workout is a good way to improve your recovery. Without proper hydration, any fluid not replaced during exercise could potentially compromise your next training session.

A woman in sport clothes drinking water by plastic bottle after workout.
Water Helps Digest Crucial Nutrients That You Need To Repair Damaged Muscles (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Water plays a huge role in your health and overall recovery process. It helps you to digest crucial nutrients that you need to repair damaged muscles. I can’t stress the power of post-workout hydration enough. If you’re dehydrated following a workout, it will take longer for your muscles to rebuild, delaying your muscle recovery.

3. Foam Roll for Relief

You can use foam rolling before and after exercise as a way to reduce DOMS and alleviate muscle soreness. It’s thought that foam rollers break up adhesions, increase blood flow, and reduce stiffness. All of this helps to decrease muscle soreness and speed up recovery time. Foam rolling can be done daily on any muscle group to help relieve tension and recover from soreness.

Woman doing foam roller exercise and posing in modern bright fitness center.
Foam Roller Helps Decrease Muscle Soreness And Speed Up Recovery Time (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Vibrating foam rollers help with myofascial release. Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy. By applying sustained pressure, foam rollers can work to release tension and reduce pain.

4. Hit The Sauna

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, gyms and fitness studios have shut their doors. This makes it practically impossible to visit your nearest sauna. However, once we’re on the other side of this and gyms are open, you’ll be able to benefit from sauna heat.

Woman Relaxing in the Sauna.
Sauna Heat Encourages The Muscles To Relax, Relieving Muscle Tension In Your Body (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Dry sauna heat could be just what your muscles need the day after exercise. Fifteen minutes in the dry heat can help ease muscle soreness. The heat also encourages the muscles to relax, relieving muscle tension in your body. Sauna bathing not only reduces muscle soreness but increases circulation, flushes out toxins, and relieves stress.

5. Perform Recovery Exercises

On your recovery days, take it easy but still be active. What I mean is, don’t go full power with your workouts every single day. Heavy training during every session will limit your gains. But that doesn’t mean you should laze about on your non-training days. Planning active recovery workout days is a great way to give your body a break without stopping fully. If you hate the idea of completely taking a day off, integrating recovery exercises lets you get some activity in. At the same time, it still allows your muscles to recover.

Woman doing yoga asana in the beach with eyes closed
Yoga Is One Of The Recovery Exercises Which Relaxes Your Muscle And Mind (Image Source: Shutterstock)

To help you plan out your next active recovery day, try some of these exercises:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi 
  • Swimming 
  • Hiking 
  • Walking

6. Sleep It Off

Make sleep a priority. If you’re one of the millions of sleep-deprived Americans, it’s time to up your sleep game. When you sleep, amazing things happen to your body. Sleep deprivation makes pain worse, especially muscular pain. When you finally nod off, your body produces Growth Hormone (GH) while you’re asleep. Amongst other functions, these hormones repair and rebuild muscle tissue.

Woman happy sleeping in white cover bed.
When You Sleep, Your Body Produces Growth Hormone (GH) Which Repair And Build Muscle (Image Source: Shutterstock)

It’s important to consistently get a good night’s sleep, not just the night of your workout but the nights after that. Sleep is an absolutely critical part of increasing your performance, improving muscle recovery, and easing muscle soreness.

How to Recover Faster From A Workout

Feel like no matter which way you move, you hurt? Whether you’re a gym fanatic, strength training pro, or occasional runner, recovery is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. From Epsom salt baths to self-massage tools, everyone has their own routine. After a long workout, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is doing any additional work to recover. But in the long run, investing in your recovery now will help your performance in the future.

Dos and Don’ts of Muscle Recovery – Dr. Josh Axe

The bottom line is that everyone has their own methods and recovery tools that work for them. Most of the time, it comes down to trial and error to figure out what eases muscle soreness and speeds up your recovery. Hopefully, these different tactics will help you take your recovery more seriously and find out how to recover from muscle soreness when nothing else works.

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