I love that deep burn during an intense workout, but who wants to be feeling it hours, even days afterwards? You have stuff to do besides workout. Tightness and soreness following a workout is not a must if you take the appropriate steps for recovery.
There are a several things you should do in order to avoid soreness. Follow this checklist and you will be well on your way to being prepared for the next workout.
Pre-workout Dynamic Stretching – A proper warm up is essential when doing any kind of workout (build, burn, strength). The reason being that if your muscles are not properly prepared for dramatic movments, the muscle will be brittle when going into the workout. A stick of gum can snap when refrigerated, if warmed between your hands, it bends and stretches without snapping.
Your muscles work the same way. A workout with cold muscles results in injury and shortage of oxygen during the workout. Shortage of oxygen results in lactic acid build up, leading to cramps and aches.
Post Workout Static Stretching – Have you ever scraped your knee and the scab formed when your knee was straight but when you bent it the scab cracked and tore? When you workout, you are tearing muscle fibre so that they build back stronger and larger, in preparation for the next workout.
When you workout, your muscle contracts thus tightening the muscle fibres. This is your knee skin when it is extended, close together and compact. When you then move your joints after your muscles have healed, they will strain the fibres, which are now repaired. If you have not stretched after your workout, the muscle fibres will have healed at a shorter length then your range of motion. This is your knee scab ripping open.
After you workout, you should do some static stretches as a cool down on the muscles you used during your workout. Your muscles will rebuild at full length and will result in a more efficient recovery while also preventing aches and injuries.
Eat – Now that you have had time to get home. Your muscles are going to need proper nourishment to replenish the muscle fibres you have torn. A proper serving of protein (25 – 30 g on average) is necessary since during the workout you have torn muscle fibre membranes and protein filaments due to repetitive, intense muscle contractions.
Eating protein post workout (fish and chicken breast is best) does not ease the pain, but will make the recovery stage faster and more efficient in replacing the protein chains in your muscles.
Active Recovery – During the recovery stage, your body delivers the needed nutrients to your muscles through your blood stream. The more blood flow, the faster the nutrients are delivered. Therefore, instead of complete rest the evening after your workout, do some low intensity exercises to raise your heart rate. The exercises should use the muscles you exercised earlier that day (i.e. if you worked your quads, gluts and hamstrings, do some body weight squats or lunges). Your recovery will be faster and your body will be more efficient at rebuilding itself.
Sleep & Rest Days – The night after your workout, your body needs a chance to regroup and rebuild without any strain on the muscle worked. Getting a good 8 hours of sleep is essential for athletes.
Your muscles will not be completely repaired the following day, so if you are going to hit the gym again, work a different muscle group. Feel free to stretch yesterday’s muscle however, don’t let them go stiff!