Let’s say you’ve been following my advice all along.
You’ve committed to a training plan that involves both cardio and strength training; You’ve committed to clean eating; You’re getting adequate sleep. You’re looking better, you’re feeling better, and your quality of life is improving as a result of it all.
Everything is great, except for one thing: You’re incredibly sore after your training!
Yes, that’s right – all of that training is resulting in you being so sore that you can barely move the next day. In fact, the soreness is so severe, you sometimes struggle with being able to stay consistent with training to full intensity and your ability to give 100% on the training room floor is compromised by it.
Now, plenty of people will tell you about DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness – and how the natural process of lactic acid spilling from torn muscle fibers is just a natural part of training, but really… is it? And, if so, does it have to be so painful?
Of course not. Here are four quick tips to reduce post-workout soreness.
1) Make sure your body is balanced during your workout. In troubleshooting training soreness, the first question I have to ask is, are we sure this is a direct result of successful lifting, and not poor form or uneven training? Oftentimes, people come into training with a dominant arm or leg, and when they have a particularly challenging movement to execute, they lean more on that dominant limb as opposed to aiming to use both equally. This results in one side of the body being weaker than the other, and one side of the body being more sore than the other.
A quick way to check for that is to take a tape measure to the primary muscle groups around your limbs – measuring your biceps, your forearms, your thighs, and your calves – in the same spot on each side. If you’re using more power in your chest, that should also reflect in the corresponding arm, and the same goes for your lower abs and its corresponding leg. And, for correcting the problem, it’s simple – choose exercises that focus on one limb at a time, and either use a heavier weight in that hand or on that leg, or add an extra set of reps. Keep track of those measurements using your measuring tape until your measurements match up, and you should feel a more even sense of training when you’re getting it in.
But what about if you’re equally balanced, and still struggling with soreness?
2) Give yourself a deep-tissue massage. When it comes to minimizing DOMS and maximizing training success, there are a few things you can do to help keep yourself from extended soreness and potential injury, like foam rolling. Foam rolling – otherwise known as self-myofascial release – is basically the use of a giant cylindrical unit of foam or ridge-covered plastic that you roll various parts of your body across in order to give yourself a deep tissue massage. Foam rolling before you train will help your body warm up to the work you’re going to put it through, alleviating some of the stress put on the muscle groups prior to training; foam rolling after the training helps work out any knotting or kinks that might develop in muscle fibers that fail to heal properly.
3) Listen to your body. About that lactic acid – that stuff actually doesn’t cause your run of the mill soreness. Instead, the process that produces the acid also produces the soreness, and can be intended as a sign to ease up on the training. Leaving at least 48 hours between training sessions for any particular muscle group gives your body the time to heal itself properly as well as limits the potential for acid buildup, which is a concern because the acid can limit your muscle groups’ ability to do its job.
4) Stay Hydrated. On top of all that, drinking lots of water during training and having a meal plan that is full of both quality protein (around 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass – a little less for women, a little more for men) and a colorful array of vegetables will also aid your body in healing from training soreness.
Keep yourself and your physical health in mind, and – like I always say – your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160lb weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Hit her up on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.