Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Workout Wednesdays

Today isn't about a specific workout so much as what to do after a particularly tough workout that leaves you in pain!  Delayed onset muscle soreness can hit 12-48 hours after a hard workout and it can really derail your next workout, especially if you are new to exercising.  Of course you need to listen to your body - uncomfortable is good, agonizing pain is not - but all too often we use a little muscle soreness to justify blowing off the next workout and that can really throw off even the best laid exercise plans.  So how to prevent and treat sore muscles so we can get back at it?

Before your workout, make sure you warm up. 5-10 minutes on the bike, treadmill or elipticall can go a long way to warming up your muscles so you don't injure yourself.  Active stretches can help as well (this is when you stretch a muscle by moving - marching with high knees, easy un-weighted lunges, arm rotations etc) but this is not the time for static stretching.  Doing static stretches at this point not only puts you at risk for injury, it serves no purpose towards warming up the muscles.

During the workout, push yourself...but only as hard as you can while still maintaining safe and proper form.  When adding more weight to your workout, increase the weight by only 2-5% at a time so that you don't attempt too much weight and risk pulling or straining a muscle.  While your last few reps of a set should be tough to complete (if they aren't, you should be lifting heavier), they shouldn't be impossible or require you to sacrifice your form.

After the workout is when things get really important.  Stretch after your workout, focusing specifically on the muscles you worked that day.  Immediately post-workout, get your protein in.  You have a 30 minute window after your workout in which your muscles are primed to use protein to rebuild.  Include some quick digesting carbs (fruit, or even honey) with your protein and that will get the protein to your muscles as fast as possible.  Potassium also greatly reduces muscle soreness - so that fruit you added to your protein shake to increase the digestion speed could be a banana for maximum benefit.  If you include a post-dinner meal (following the clean eating style of 5-6 small meals a day), this is the perfect time for casein protein - either the powder form or cottage cheese, a natural source of casein.  Casein is a slow digesting protein (as opposed to whey which is a fast digesting protein) so while you're sleeping, the casein will be hard at work repairing your muscles.  A long soak in a hot bath (with Epsom salts even) can also help sooth your hurting muscles.

If your muscle soreness is so extreme that you feel you can't possibly workout again, try to at least walk or ride the bike or do some light yoga.  Creating some heat in your body, sweating and getting the muscles moving again will do much more to relieve that pain then sitting on the couch will (I know, that's hard to believe when even watching TV hurts).

In between your workouts, make sure you are spacing out your exercise so that your muscles have recovery time.  I recommend splitting your weight training into at least upper and lower body, if not into even smaller groups.  Muscles should have 48 hours of rest before being worked again.  When you workout and lift weight, you create small tears in your muscles.  When those tears repair, your muscles grows.  But if you don't give your muscles time to recover, they can't grow (and isn't that the whole point anyway).

What are your tips for avoiding extreme muscle soreness? How do you decide what's normal muscle discomfort from work and what constitutes a real reason to take a break?  When you do get muscle soreness, what are your tricks for healing as fast as possible?

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