Sore, strained, or torn? It’s important to pay attention to how your muscles are responding to an increased burden of exercise or physical activity. Muscle soreness from exercise is usually a good sign, although it can happen for a variety of reasons.
The right kind of soreness after exercise can take up to a full day to manifest itself. It usually means that your muscle fibers have been damaged, forcing your body to rebuild the fibers to grow thicker and stronger as they recover.
Your muscles will first feel fatigued, lacking strength and energy to move, but as they recover, soreness will gradually grow in sensation. This process of muscle recovery is what people usually call muscle “gains”.
Peak soreness should occur within 24 hours. Recovery cycles usually last about 48 to 72 hours, which allows for one full rest day. Recovery cycles begin as soon as you’re done exercising, not when you feel stiffness or soreness. Following these tips can help keep your recovery cycle to about 48 hours, which can help you fit three solid days of working out into your week:
- Stretch for at least twenty minutes, before and after every workout.
And not just your hamstrings and triceps! Full-body stretches before exercise are essential to improving blood flow to all of your muscles and can help prevent cramps and injuries. Stretching after workouts can also help muscles loosen properly, allowing them to grow stronger and more flexible.
It’s also important to stretch during rest days to shorten recovery times, especially before any light physical activity. Stretching out the right kind of muscle soreness should feel great, since stretching also increases your natural endorphin count, which helps ease the pain.
Last, but most importantly, make sure to hold each stretch for each muscle group for at least twenty to thirty seconds. When you stretch, exhale, and when you release, inhale. Try to keep regular breathing intervals, and breathe deeply.
- Make sure to do some light physical activity on your rest days.
Aren’t rest days for resting? Yes, but you should expect your body’s resting state to handle normal physical activity when not exercising. If this doesn’t seem possible, you might have pushed yourself too hard during a session. If you can manage it, a short thirty-minute walk in the afternoon or in the evening can be enough.
Yoga is also particularly effective at helping your body restore itself more quickly. Stretching exercises with coordinated breathing can help you feel which of your muscles responded the most to your previous session. Avoid the more difficult poses that put your full body weight on a few muscles, to avoid injury.
- Stay hydrated! Have a light snack with complex carbs and protein one hour afterwards.
Make sure to drink plenty of water after exercise, to replace the water lost with sweating. If you’re trying to lose water weight, just avoid sports drinks that include sodium and simple sugars.
A light snack, like a protein bar or mixed nuts and dried fruits, helps replenish your muscles with the energy and building blocks it needs to promote active recovery. One hour after exercise is ideally when the body will immediately digest and begin to replenish your muscles, so don’t worry too much about the calories. Just don’t overindulge!
- Get a massage! Or use a massage device.
When muscles grow, they also grow denser and tighter, which can lead to injury. Massages techniques have always been developed for muscle recovery, and they work. Massaging muscles stimulates the body to increase blood flow to sore points, which replenishes spent muscles with oxygenated blood and nutrients. This can help release a lot of tension from exercise, preventing stiffness and soreness from developing throughout the night.
Massage devices or foam rollers also work pretty well. Spend at least thirty minutes massaging your key muscle groups to make sure that it has the effect it should.
Soreness during exercise usually comes from the buildup of lactic acid in muscles, which has a burning sensation. Muscle pain from overuse can quickly develop from cramps into strains or tears, which can take a lot longer to heal than just soreness. The most important difference is the sensation of pain, so pay careful attention to your body while you push your limits!
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