It’s no secret that sports are very enjoyable. Everyone loves watching and partaking in sport, but there’s one thing that you don’t particularly like; the day after.
The day after playing sports will usually be spent hobbling around your house. Everything feels sore – even sitting down hurts your muscles! It gets so bad that you often avoid playing sports to not deal with muscle soreness. The same applies to exercise; you always get pain the next day.
Firstly, this is totally normal and is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Secondly, you can reduce soreness by following a good recovery routine. Follow the steps in this guide after every sports session or workout to recover faster and be in less pain!
When you finish exercising, you need to have a little cool down before moving on with your life. Essentially, this helps your heart rate return to normal and stops blood from pooling in your muscles. That sounds a bit gross, but it basically means the blood isn’t flowing correctly, hence the stiffness.
Cooldowns are manageable; you just have to slowly decrease the intensity of your exercise. Let’s say you were playing football, your cooldown would be a brisk jog around the pitch that gradually gets slower. Now, blood is circulating, and you’re ready for step two.
Stretch your muscles to help them return to their natural length. When exercising, your muscles tighten up and get shorter. If you leave them like this, they will feel incredibly tight the next day. You also let trigger points and knots form, which are so painful. After cooling down, your body is ready to be stretched.
Static stretching is the best method of stretching after a period of activity. Dynamic stretching should be reserved for warm-ups, while a nice passive stretch in a static position helps you recover. It encourages your muscles to relax and get nice and long. This step goes a very long way to preventing soreness tomorrow!
Refuel with something sweet
Usually, it’s not healthy to eat sweet foods that have high sugar content. However, a post-workout snack is actually perfect for you. While exercising, your body depletes itself of glycogen – which is basically sugar. Therefore, you can feel lethargic and light-headed after your session. So, a quick sugary snack replenishes the glycogen stores and gives you a burst of energy. This is pretty much the only time you should give yourself a blood sugar boost like this!
This little tactic won’t help with DOMS, but it does ensure the rest of the day is easier. You will have more energy to go back to work or focus on other tasks.
Eat, eat, eat
Speaking of refuelling, you should eat a meal shortly after exercising. Your meal should be balanced and contain a good source of protein and carbohydrates. These two nutrients are essential for muscle recovery and growth. Protein helps your muscles grow back stronger, while carbohydrates are needed to supply the energy for this to happen. You’ll also be devoid of energy after exercising, so a meal is crucial to give you an extra boost.
Some people will also take protein shakes after playing sports or exercising, but they’re not essential. You don’t need protein supplements unless you are an athlete or someone that wants to build a lot of muscle. Most people can get what they need from their diet.
Drink plenty of water
Again, your water levels drop considerably lower after a bout of physical activity. Naturally, this is due to all the fluids lost through sweat. Fun fact, if you want to know how much fluid you lost, weigh yourself before and after exercise. Anyway, water is essential for basically everything in our bodies. From a recovery perspective, it provides oxygen for your muscles. This can help to flush out the lactic acid that starts to generate after exercise.
You know that burning sensation in your muscles the next day? That’s caused by a build-up of lactic acid. Stretching can help you get rid of this, as will drinking water. Water flushes it from the muscles, and you will excrete it when you pee.
Foam roll your muscles
Up to now, all of these tips can be done without any equipment at all. Just do them after your session and then eat when you’re at home. However, you should buy one piece of recovery equipment that will change your life; a foam roller. This isn’t an ad for foam rollers; they’re just an exceptional tool to avoid muscle soreness after working out. Choose whatever brand you want, but the knobbly ones tend to be the best as they get deeper into your muscles.
Effectively, a foam roller will roll out and massage your muscles. It’s particularly useful on your legs and upper back. Spend around 10-15 minutes foam rolling your muscles when you’re at home. You can do this at any time, but doing it before bed works best. Put something on the TV and relax as you get a self-massage. This increases blood flow in the muscles and irons out any knots. You should wake up with far less soreness than ever before.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep
Speaking of sleep, it is the final step in your recovery process. Be sure to sleep for at least 8 hours to let your body recover correctly. This is when your muscles do most of their work and repair themselves. If you don’t sleep very well, you will always wake up a lot sorer. Think about some supplements like CBD gummies for sleep if you have trouble sleeping. These are probably the most natural sleeping aids you can find, though some herbal teas can also help you out.
After that, you will wake up and feel very refreshed. Sometimes, this routine will leave you with absolutely no muscle soreness at all. Other times, it will provide substantial relief. It depends on how intense the exercise was. If you played football for three hours, you’re bound to have some slight leg soreness the next day. This routine will make the soreness manageable rather than painful!