So – I was away for a couple of days last week (out Tuesday avo, back Friday morning) and on my return the following conversation happened:
Me (near the start of Friday’s 5am class): “You need to be sure to keep your elbows in when….”
Client: “Mate – I am sore as so just leave me alone and shut-up”. (A couple of words have been left out to protect the delicate ears/eyes of the reader!).
Fair enough then!
This type of thing happens at the gym ALL the time (though not always to quite the same level of abruptness!) and you will often hear me joking around by asking the question ‘Does anyone else want to tell me about the workout they did YESTERDAY’ when explaining a routine or after listening to someone tell me how sore their legs/butt/abs/shoulders are. Now, sometimes there is no way around this – you play, you pay so to speak – but there are SOME THINGS that you can do to speed up the recovery process.
1/. You’ve just GOT to Hydrate!
Drinking water during a session, after a session – and continuing to stay hydrated – is the best first step! The water you drink will help flush all the bad stuff out of your system (which includes the bad stuff in your muscles!) and WILL help you feel better (which doesn’t mean GOOD by the way) faster.
2/. Eat some GOOD food.
So, the typical ‘Round 1 Challenge Diet’ is a great way to start:
Yes foods: Fresh meat and veggies, fruit, nuts, buts and berries.
No foods: Added sweeteners, bread, pasta, alcohol.
You also need to make sure you don’t UNDER-EAT after you have been training hard. Sometimes our instincts are to really ‘cut back’ on our food intake when we are training hard because we don’t want to ‘undo the good work’. I get that. But if you under-eat after tough training sessions your body wont have the fuel to rebuild your muscles – remember, the process of building strength is really the process of your muscles ‘tearing’ during your session then re-building whilst you rest…and you need fuel for those repairs to happen.
3/. Lack of S-L-E-E-P.
I agree that there isn’t much you can do when you are lying in bed and your head is going 10000 miles per hour and you JUST CANT SLEEP. But if you are sitting up watching mindless tv shows or playing computer games or whatever else it is that you do late at night when you *SHOULD* be in bed asleep…well, that is not helping you recover. Go to BED. You have to be a grown-up about this and go to bed and go to sleep.
(Oh yeah. And if you are lying in bed with your brain going in circles and decide that maybe getting up and re-watching series 1 of Game of Thrones is a good plan, it ISN’T. Relax, count sheep and go to sleep…getting up and doing things is not going to help you sleep.)
4/. Training M-O-R-E and M-O-R-E and M-O-R-E
Fine line time (and I will come back to that) but if you are agonisingly sore, doing MORE training probably isn’t helping. If you are thinking that just ‘doubling down’ will make you amazingly fitter, stronger, better…well, it probably wont. Your muscles actually grow (as I already mentioned) whilst you rest, not while you train…so you need to rest.
Now – active rest does count here…for some people, a Boxing class can actually count as ‘Active Rest’ (depending on where they are at). For others, active rest is a gentle walk, some foam rolling and stretching. Doing *nothing* is not active rest and probably doesn’t help either…but there is a definite difference between getting moving and training…only you can decide where that line is for you! The ‘REST’ line is not only for new people – it can also impact people who have made changes to their routine by adding in ‘extras’, or, maybe just changing the nature of your primary activity.
4/. The ‘dodgey’ bits – Nutrients and supplementation
Now I like to practice what I preach and I rarely (if ever) take supplements (apart from a scoop of protein powder in my overnight oats)…so I always feel a bit ‘funny’ talking about them. BUT. There is a bit of research out there saying that ZINC, Magnesium and Vitamin D can all help with recovery. The question of course is – how do you know you are deficient and therefore NEED to spend the $ to get these minerals to aid recovery…or are you just flushing more money down the toilet?
That part I largely can’t answer, but magnesium is really important to think about when you are starting a new routine / ‘lifting your game’ – not only is it critical to recovery (plays an important role in both energy production and getting oxygen to cells) but it is also LOST (through sweat) during exercise…
Exercise is a great way to create physical stress – it creates a stimulus that the body has to overcome (and it overcomes by becoming ‘stronger’). But it is that ‘other’ type of stress – you know, the “I’m so stressed out I can’t think straight” kind – that I am talking about here.
Have you ever been sick during a particularly ‘stressful’ time of your life and found it impossible to recover? Well, this is not ‘news’ – a study from WAY, WAY back (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise · April 2002) spoke to the havoc mental stress played with physical recovery. In the study (read it here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Allan_Goldfarb/publication/11481831_Eccentric_exercise_effect_on_blood_oxidative-stress_markers_and_delayed_onset_of_muscle_soreness/links/59e4de7e458515250246e789/Eccentric-exercise-effect-on-blood-oxidative-stress-markers-and-delayed-onset-of-muscle-soreness.pdf), 31 students were assessed for stress levels using a series of psychological tests – THEN they were sent to ‘work-out’! At an hour post workout, students who had reported ‘HIGH’ levels of stress had regained 38 percent of their leg strength, while students on the low side of the ‘stress scale’ had regained 60 percent of their strength back – or nearly 50% more.
Now – there probably isn’t much you can do (short-term) about how stressed you are feeling/how well you are coping with being stressed…BUT. Be honest with yourself – if you are really stressed out, recovery from exercise IS going to take a lot longer so keep that in mind.
6/. Protein Matters – Muscle builds Muscle.
SO – in addition to the earlier point about ‘eating’, you also have to be sure to keep your protein levels UP. Muscles need protein to repair/rebuild themselves post exercise – no matter WHAT the nature of the exercise you have been doing – so you have to be sure to get enough. What’s enough? It isn’t usually too excessive – think 2g protein/kilo body weight/day – but in the immediate post workout window something in the 20g-40g window should be HEAPS for most people…you don’t have to eat an entire cow – just a quick protein shake will do it.
7/. ‘NEW’ things cause ‘NEW’ sore spots.
The best way to avoid being sore is to consistently ‘train’ (or consistently DON’T). New stuff is going to leave you feeling ‘sore’…new stuff that is totally ‘out of your comfort zone’ might leave you feeling unable to get out of bed! If we do a new exercise (or more likely, one day ‘out of the blue’ do ‘a lot’ of an exercise you are used too!) then you are going to be sore. So you need to react. Eat some good food. Get some sleep. AND…remember what caused the sore spots and find a way to ‘keep it’ in your program.
For example, if you get super sore from walking lunges – be sure to do some each and every week. Ditto calf raises. Ditto everything really. You kind of have to ‘choose’ what is worse…the soreness that always comes after you do ‘exercise x’ OR the pain in the butt of regularly adding it to your routine!
That’s kind of it. I hope you have all had an awesome ‘first week back’…we have a fair bit going on at R1 at the moment with the recent addition of the daily ‘Functional Fitness’ classes and the impending arrival of the ‘28-Days Later’ challenge…don’t forget the movie night is coming up as well (Australia Day long weekend)…
See you all in the gym,
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