Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout

Recovery


One of the most common mistakes in nearly every sport or fitness activity is overtraining. This happens when you exercise beyond your body’s ability to recover in between workout sessions, thinking that "more is better."

However, excessive exercise can actually backfire and sabotage all your fitness gains, as it can lead to injury, illness and poor performance. That is why you have to make sure that you spend enough time and effort in recovery.

The benefits of exercise recovery

Exercise recovery is an important part of any workout routine. You can enhance growth and get the most from every exercise by using proper recovery protocols. Active recovery, in particular, may help reduce second and third day post-workout soreness, alleviate fatigue and promote blood flow to your joints and muscles. It also may help maintain your heart rate at a steady pace and improve your endurance.

Studies have shown that overtraining instead of giving yourself time to recover can do more harm than good. For instance, one study shows that once you reach 40 to 50 minutes of daily vigorous exercise, the benefits from your efforts plateau, and further efforts do not convey additional improvements in life expectancy.

The key is moderation in terms of intensity, duration and frequency. Although you might like to believe you can go hard every single day, it's important to give your body time to recover. Remember that you shouldn’t risk your health and safety to achieve your fitness goals.

Pay attention to the intensity of your workout

Exercising for longer periods of time does not necessarily result in fitness gains, so instead of working out longer, you should work out wiser. You can exercise less if you pick up the pace. The time spent on a particular routine is actually inversely associated with its intensity. This means that the more intense the exercise, the less time you have to spend on it.

In fact, one study shows that a single minute of strenuous activity within a 10-minute exercise session done three times a week is as effective as working out for 45 minutes at a moderate pace. This means that it’s possible for you to get fit in a mere fraction of the time it takes to engage in moderate exercise. And the results, in terms of genetic and metabolic benefits, are virtually identical. The only thing that differs is the time spent.1

Think about it: All you need is 10 minutes, three times a week, and you're done. This is even less than half of the time I typically recommend. Regardless of which high-intensity exercise you choose, the evidence is quite clear: You don’t have to exercise longer — you can get fit by exercising more intensely for a shorter period of time.

What causes muscle soreness?

I’ve mentioned earlier that exercise recovery helps lessen post-workout soreness, but why does it occur in the first place? If you’ve ever been active, you’ve probably experienced some type of muscle stiffness, accompanied by discomfort, pain and sometimes cramping. Anyone can experience this, from beginners to hardcore fitness enthusiast.

As your muscles work harder and go beyond what it is accustomed to, microscopic damage may occur to the muscle fibers, ultimately resulting in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is commonly experienced after performing an unfamiliar exercise or beginning a program when you have not exercised in a while. It’s important to understand that these aches and pains are a part of exercise — they’re simply an indicator that your body is adapting to your fitness routine.

When you have DOMS, avoid doing a difficult workout to “push past the pain,” as it could make the situation worse. It is important to note that greater pain doesn’t equal greater gains. In fact, pain is often an indication that it’s time to slow down until your body has fully recovered.

Best foods for sore muscles

Sore muscles after a workout are common for those who are new to exercise, which is also called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Small microtears in your muscles cause the pain, but the good thing is that you become stronger when muscles rebuild. To help you feel better and recover faster, try these foods:

  • Cacao — Consuming cacao nibs may benefit your health, as they contain a plethora of antioxidants that may help boost energy levels and reduce the effects of stress-related exercise.
  • Coffee — Having a couple of cups of this beverage may help reduce post-workout pain.
  • Eggs — The protein found in eggs may help reduce your risk of DOMS.
  • Ginger and cinnamon — Research indicates that these spices may help reduce DOMS due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Green tea — The antioxidants found in green tea make it a good post-workout drink.
  • Manuka honey — This specific type of honey is prized for its anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • Nuts and seeds — Real nuts and seeds provide a host of vitamins and proteins needed for muscle synthesis and growth.
  • Wild-caught salmon — This fish is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Aside from helping with exercise, the omega-3 may also help optimize your health in other ways.
  • Spinach — Adding this vegetable to your diet can benefit your post-workout routine thanks to its antioxidants and nitrate content.
  • Sweet potatoes or yams — Consuming these foods can help replenish your glycogen stores after exercising.
  • Tart cherries — The nutrients in these cherry varieties may help reduce inflammation and even improve athletic performance.
  • Turmeric — This spice contains curcumin, a compound that has been shown to help reduce DOMs-related pain.

Light exercise benefits sore muscles

To succeed with your fitness goals, it’s important to understand what your body may go through as you exercise, and how to deal with those changes. It’s common for beginners to start an exercise routine only to give up when they experience muscle soreness, as they’re not familiar with it and are worried that they’ve hurt themselves.

Instead of quitting your workout and cutting short the fitness gains that you’ve earned so far, I recommend doing light exercise to help your muscles recover faster. Swimming and walking are good examples of a light workout, as they help loosen tight muscles and reduce pain. Since DOMS usually affects only a subset of the body parts that were worked, you may be able to focus on other muscles while the fatigued ones recover.

How to relieve pain and soothe sore muscles

Even if you begin to accept muscle soreness and pain as a part of your journey to a healthy body, chances are you’re still looking for ways to relieve these aches and pains the quickest way possible.

Some people reach for over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. However, these drugs may cause adverse side effects, particularly when taken for long periods of time. I advise you to consider safer alternatives instead, such as:

  1. Epsom salt bath — Take a tepid or warm Epsom salt bath following a strenuous workout to promote muscle relaxation and reduce muscle cramping.
  2. Foam rolling — A light 10- to 15-minute session of foam rolling on sore muscles post-workout may help soothe aches and pains and reduce the effects of DOMS.
  3. Heat pack — For muscle aches and pains, applying a heat pack will help bring blood flow to the area, which helps promote healing, soothe pain and increase flexibility.
  4. Ice pack — If you suffer a sudden injury while working out, especially if it involves swelling, you can apply ice on the injured area for the first 48 to 72 hours to help ease pain and reduce secondary tissue damage. Apply ice for about 20 minutes once an hour.
  5. Stretching — I prefer active to passive stretching, and my favorite type is Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), which was developed by Aaron Mattes. With AIS, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation, increase the elasticity of muscle joints and help your body repair itself.
  6. Arnica — This homeopathic remedy has been shown to reduce muscle soreness in marathon runners but did not have an effect on cell damage.

While these methods may help reduce immediate pain, it is important to remember that a reduction in pain does not equal muscle repair and recovery. As your pain subsides with these measures, do not be tempted to attack your next workout believing you’ve healed, as doing so may create a bigger problem.

Massage away your aches and pain

The benefits of massage therapy for pain relief are established enough that it's commonly used during physical therapy and rehabilitation from injury. In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers took muscle biopsies from participants who had received massage therapy for exercise-induced muscle damage and compared them with that of the participants that did not receive treatment.2

The results show that massage therapy may be beneficial for muscles that have been acutely damaged through exercise, as it helps reduce inflammation and promote mitochondrial biogenesis. Massage also releases endorphins, which may help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline.

Try cupping for pain relief

Cupping, also known as myofascial decompression therapy among athletic trainers, is an ancient medical treatment that involves the use of suction cups of varying sizes, which are attached to the body. The suction draws stagnant blood to the surface of the skin, hence the bruise-like marks that typically disappear within days. The procedure is painless, provided that excessive suction is not used.

The treatment is said to help improve blood circulation, which in turn helps speed up healing, reduce pain and ease muscle soreness. According to Dr. Houman Danesh, a pain management specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, cupping helps “jumpstart the body's natural healing process.”

Oil is first applied to the skin to prevent excessive friction and pain as the flesh is sucked into the cup. When using glass cups, the vacuum is created by lighting a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol and holding it inside the cup. The fire burns out the oxygen inside the cup, so when the flame is removed and the cup placed on the skin, the resulting vacuum creates suction.

There are many safety precautions to keep in mind when cupping, which a trained professional will know how to handle. For instance, excessive suction must be avoided when cupping certain areas of the body. While your back and thighs can safely handle heavy suction, it could be risky to cup certain areas of your neck, for example, unless you know what you're doing. Cupping should not be done on your head or face, and is also contraindicated for certain serious health conditions.

Hot bath can help cut calories

As mentioned above, taking a hot bath with Epsom salt may help relieve symptoms of soreness. But did you know that a hot bath may also help you get the benefits of exercise without actually working out? Taking a hot bath after a workout is one of the strategies used in the exercise industry to increase the calories burned after a workout. Research shows that when your body temperature rises in a hot bath, not only does it help burn more calories but it also has a beneficial effect on your blood sugar.

An initial pilot study by exercise physiologist Steve Faulkner, Ph.D., measured the effect of raising core temperature on blood sugar levels and calories burned. Results show that energy expenditure increased by 80% from sitting in a hot bath for an hour — this is almost similar to the energy expenditure from a brisk 30-minute walk. A hot bath also helped burn 140 calories in an hour. The second factor evaluated was peak glucose output, which was found to be 10% lower after a hot bath than after an hour of exercise.3

If you are going to soak in a hot bath, make sure the water is filtered so you’re not opening your pores in hot water and loading your body with chlorine, fluoride and disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Remember that a hot bath is supposed to be relaxing and not a torture chamber. Your body is designed to function optimally at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Raising your core temperature above 104.8 degrees Fahrenheit (40.4 degrees Celsius) is a medical emergency.