For my last birthday, I received a number of gifts, including but not limited to the following: a Calvin Klein sports bra (with padding!), matte lipstick, and the realization it now takes me a week to recover from a 45-minute workout. This is what old is. As Father Time ticks away, it becomes more important, in your pursuit of fitness, to learn how to recover faster. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me — struggling to put your socks on and crumpling in pain when you sneeze too hard.
If you’re an active person, you’ve likely experienced muscle soreness and fatigue in your life. It might come after a particularly grueling workout, trying a new sport for the first time (like Olympic weightlifting), or simply engaging in strenuous activity, like helping a friend move into their new house. If you’ve ever dealt with this, you know it can be a major buzzkill when you’re too sore to do anything for days on end. How does one going about speeding up the recovery process? Here are a few helpful hints, so you can feel better sooner and get back to the gym.
5 Ways to Recover Faster
1. Make Friends With a Foam Roller
One study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine found foam rolling can reduce fatigue-related impairments in your muscles after you exercise. Another study revealed foam rolling, combined with mobilization, can improve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Foam rollers can be inexpensive and don’t take up much room, and you still stand to gain massive benefits from them. Just make sure you do your research on how to use a foam roller. It’s not as simple as laying on it and flopping around like a fish.
2. Try Heat and Cold
Science is split on this, but using both warmer and colder temperatures to encourage recovery is a widely accepted approach. This might mean saunas, hot tubs, or a warm bath, or conversely, ice bath or cold packs. While this might take some trial and error to see what best suits you, many professionals will say ice is best for injuries, and heat is best for regular soreness and fatigue.
3. Utilize Compression
Simply put, compression gear is stuff you wear that squeezes you tight. This type of attire holds your muscles in place and helps improve blood flow, which can lead to better performance for athletes. It’s also something people turn to for recovery. While compression gear has been somewhat of a fad over the years — something perhaps blown out of proportion with not much research to back it up — there is still some research suggesting compression can be used to effectively boost healing and help you recover faster.
Start with compression tights, which could help with leg soreness and also look rather badass.
4. Take Epsom Salt Baths
Even if you’re not a fan of baths (I’m not, but only because I’m too tall to fit in the standard tub), you might want to consider an Epsom salt bath, if long-lasting soreness is plaguing you. This kind of salt is primarily composed of magnesium — a mineral you can absorb through your skin. It can help relax your muscles by flushing away the build-up of lactic acid, which collects in your body after you’ve trained. Magnesium also plays a role in controlling muscle and nerve function — two more things that can take part in soreness. Soak in the tub for a while, and you just might recover faster.
5. Engage in Active Recovery
My thought process after a tough training session usually sounds something like this: “Right. Great. Now’s a good time to watch TV for three hours.” The problem here is sitting on your butt, not moving at all, can actually make muscle soreness worse. As opposed to rest, try active recovery. Active recovery includes everything from massage and foam rolling to a long walk or a yoga session. The key is to do something low-intensity. It helps with recovery, though, because it still increases blood flow and facilitates the enzymes that will help restore your muscles. Active recovery could make a huge difference when it comes to battling DOMS.
Remember, you don’t have to put up with nagging soreness. Try different things, see what works best for you, and feel better faster.
How do you handle recovery? Tell us in the comments!