If you’re not a total beginner in the world of fitness and workout, chances are you’ve come across the term delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
You wake up the next day after a new exercise and you feel like you won’t be able to get out of the bed. It is not necessarily a bad thing (the soreness is part of the muscle growth) but it is definitely not a pleasant experience.
In this article, we take a look at 5 activities that may help you to relax after a workout and significantly reduce the muscle soreness.
1. Sauna, steam room or hot tub
When it comes to the post-workout recovery, heat therapy is a commonly used practice to fight muscle soreness. It doesn’t really matter whether it is a moist heat or dry heat, the exposure to the heat may significantly reduce the pain caused by excessive muscle exhaustion.
You can expose yourself to the heat in many ways. The most popular and very relaxing form of heat therapy is sauna. The temperature of a traditional sauna is usually between 150 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are not accustomed to high temperatures, you can try an infrared sauna (130 – 150 degrees) or a steam room (around 110 degrees). It is said that you can even lose weight with infrared sauna.
And of course, you can also use a hot tub where you can set the temperature to any level that is comfortable for you.
No matter which method you prefer, use it in moderation and don’t forget to drink a lot of water. No matter how relaxing the heat can be, you should stop immediately if you feel any kind of discomfort.
2. Cold water
If heat is not your friend, you can try another method – the immersion in a cold water. Ice baths are very popular among athletes as they may help reduce the post-workout muscle soreness and inflammation.
The research conducted on a set of 366 volunteers proved that cold water treatment (also called cryotherapy) applied 1 – 4 days after the workout is more effective in helping to reduce sore muscles and losses in performance than casual resting after the exercise.
Another popular way to limit the negative consequences of strength exercise is the so-called contrast water therapy. This method consists of alternating between cold water and warm water in short intervals. This can be done by switching between the hot tub and the cold water pool or simply by changing the water temperature in the shower.
A good massage is one of the best ways to speed up the recovery after an intense exercise. It reaches the muscle fibers that have been stressed out during the physical activity and helps to increase the blood circulation.
We recommend getting a full-body treatment by a certified massage therapist. But of course, you don’t always have time or money to get a massage after each exercise. Luckily, there are many practical self-massage techniques that may be beneficial for your muscles. Will they be as effective as a professional massage? Probably not. But they can help anyway.
A simple massage with your thumb pressing against the muscle of your neck or shoulder while rotating your head may be more relaxing than you would think.
4. Meditation and deep breathing
We won’t list the numerous mental and physical health benefits of meditation as it would probably require a separate article. However, there is no doubt that meditation is a great post-workout activity. Here’s why:
Workout usually increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Although it is exactly what you need during the exercise (it helps your body to adapt and increase the stamina and strength), it may have a negative impact on your well-being if the levels are too high for a long time. And that’s where meditation comes into play, as it helps to reduce the levels of stress hormone in your body.
Another positive aspect of the mediation is that it promotes deep breathing, which increases parasympathetic nervous system activity connected to recovery and resting. It helps your body to get balanced immediately after the workout.
5. Carefree idleness
Who said that to recover after a hard workout you have to do something? One of the best ways to tackle the sore muscles is simply to relax, get enough sleep and let your body to regenerate itself.
You worked hard in the gym and now it’s time to reward yourself and do nothing to get the needed relaxation. You can read a book, watch your favorite movie or TV series or just stay in the bed a little longer than usual.
Soreness is a natural part of muscle growth, but you should keep in mind that if you exceed the limits of what is reasonable during your exercise, it may become unbearable and hinder your progress.
Now that you know 5 great ways to speed up the recovery after a workout, you may give them a try next time you’ll feel like you’ve gone too far in the gym.