Got Soreness?

My butt hurts!

It hurts to sit on the toilet!

I can’t get out of bed or walk down the stairs!

Oh, do I love a new round of exercises and a new workout routine.  Everyone realizes that yes they do have muscles and boy do they hurt right now.

Since, soreness has been a hot topic lately, I felt this was an appropriate time to address this subject. With a new round of workouts usually comes a new transition period for the body.

First, what causes soreness?

Well any number of things can cause soreness but the most applicable to my readers are these three culprits

1. New exercise program
2. Routine Change
3. Increase in duration or intensity

Soreness is most likely due to the microscopic tearing that happens after an intense workout.  Basically during a workout, and especially a new workout, we break down the muscle so that it can heal and grow back stronger.  This breaking down of the muscle causes inflammation to occur which presses on pain receptors in the muscle telling our brain to stop moving those legs because they freakin’ hurt.

Without the inflammation process though we would not be able to heal properly, so it is very important.  One thing we can do is speed the process up and get the inflammation out as fast as possible bringing in new blood and nutrients to the muscle tissue.  This will reduce soreness and get us walking normal and feeling better much faster.


How to Speed up the Process

MAKE IT STOP!  Well, there is no real way to make it stop except taking it a bit easier.  My best advice is to embrace the soreness and the healing process that is now occurring in your body.  The cells in your body are quickly repairing themselves to be stronger so they don’t have to go through this trauma again.  (Well, until I switch it up on them next month 😛 ).

We do have the ability to speed things up though.  Some of the following techniques come from personal experience while others I just found in my research of this topic.

1.  Foam Roll after Exercise

I have found foam rolling and light stretching helps me recover much more quickly.  I don’t think there is any research to back me up but years and years of playing competitive sports have said stretch after you get done and if I get some foam rolling in I feel even better.

2.  Active Recovery

No strenuous exercise here, simply get the muscles moving and pumping blood again.  This can be a walk through the park, your personal improvement routine (recommended), a series of low-intensity bodyweight exercises that puts your joints through a full range of motion and even some gentle stretching.  Really, all we are doing here is getting the blood flowing again so we can shuttle new nutrients to the damaged sites facilitating the repair process.  This technique mixed with foam rolling has been the most effective for me.

3.  Hot Bath w/ Epson Salt

The premise here is the heat helps to bring new blood to the muscles while also relaxing the body.  Although, you should use ice the first 48 hours after an injury, I find a hot bath relaxes my mind and body more.  Placebo effect maybe, but I couldn’t care less either way if it works.

To kick it up a bit notch add EPSOM Salts to your bath.  According to the Epsom Salt Industry website, Epsom Salts are made of magnesium sulfate which when added to the bath are absorbed by your skin.  Upon absorption, the Epsom salt draws toxins from the body, sedates the nervous system, relaxes the muscles and most important to our cause reduces swelling.  It’s the swelling that makes muscles hurt, so the faster we reduce that swelling the sooner they will feel better.

4.  Contrast Bath/Showers

I used this technique extensively in college and during heavy training periods as a professional.  To be honest, I felt great afterwards but I never felt like my legs could perform optimally.  This technique also takes some serious cahones to do.

For this technique you alternate between periods of freezing cold water and hot water.  The typical protocol is 40 s to 1 min COLD and then 2-3 minutes of HOT.  Repeat this process 3-5 x or whatever you can handle.  You can either use two different bath tubs or use a shower head and just turn it from cold to hot. I do recommend using this technique at least once to know what it feels like.  Also, its helps burn fat by activating brown fat located mainly in your upper back but that is a topic for another day.

The premise behind this is the icing helps to stop the swelling and causes the muscle to contract squeezing the blood out of it and then the hot relaxes the muscle bringing in new blood and nutrients.

5.  Simply Icing

Everyone knows this technique.  Just ice the really sore muscle for 20 minutes or so.  The cold helps to reduce the swelling and numbs the pain receptors so the perception of pain decreases.

6.  Nutrition

I find it rather fitting that I will get to mention Essential Fatty Acids (Krill Oil, Fish Oil, Cod Liver Oil) again because they keep popping up in this newsletter.  They have strong anti-inflammatory effects and have been shown to reduce arthritic pain as much as NSAID’s (ie: ibuprofen).

Eating adequate complete proteins to provide building blocks for the new muscle and eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit will also help keep inflammation at bay and reduce healing time.  Add in some tea and plenty of clean water and you will be golden.

Try out one or two of these techniques the next time you can’t get off the toilet properly from too many squats.  I look forward to hearing which ones worked for you.