This week I started a new set of workouts. For the past several weeks, well months really, I’ve been doing mainly my killer bodyweight exercises from the program I designed. Why you ask?
Well for one thing, I don’t have a gym membership right now. There’s a gym at my office but I don’t know… It’s a little strange to me working out at the same time as some of the senior execs. To me, the gym isn’t really a place to socialize while I’m working out anyway. The gym is more of a place to #gsd and get my butt in shape.
[#gsd = get stuff (or whatever version of "stuff" you choose) done]
The other thing? The gyms in the city that are in my budget that I’ve seen are pretty nasty looking. And the nice ones are all waaaaaay out of my price range.
Plus, I haven’t had tons of time to devote to my workouts, so the 15 min workouts in that program have been perfect for my schedule recently.
This all means that my apartment and the surrounding sidewalks/playgrounds/Central Park are now my gym. And seeing as how I have less than 100 sq ft in my apartment to workout in, I’ve had to get creative with bodyweight exercises.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s been fun making up workouts that I can do basically anywhere, but the whole not using dumbbells recently is getting to me.
I miss lifting heavy things!
So I’ve embarked on a new set of workouts over the last week that made use of my PowerBlocks (freaking awesome adjustable dumbbells) and creative use of my apartment space.
And ooo wow! The workouts have kicked my butt and made my body, especially legs, ridiculously sore! The reason for the sore body is largely because I’m using dumbbells suddenly after quite the dumbbell hiatus AND because I’m challenging my body in different ways than I have the past several months. Wins all around!
My guess is that my body started to adapt to those “no equipment necessary” workouts since I hadn’t really changed it up in a few months. So it’s a good thing I switched up my workouts!
By switching things up, not only am I employing the power of muscle confusion to help aid body change, but I also have a real sense of accomplishment after I lift. Especially after I lift something heavier than I thought I could! If you have never lifted weights before (or only done the light weights for 20-30 reps at a time) you are MAJORLY missing out on all sorts of physical and mental benefits.
Oh! In case you hadn’t heard of it before – muscle confusion is a training approach that helps avoid plateaus when your body has adjusted to workouts. By changing up workouts frequently, you keep your body guessing as to what challenges it will have to overcome next. This helps you avoid plateaus in your body change goals – be it fat loss or muscle gain.
But anyway, my muscles are so sore from these new workouts that I’m feeling the pain in my legs within 24 hours. And if you have ever done any sort of weight lifting you know that the pain/soreness usually peaks at about 48 hours out from the workout. So when you’re extremely sore at only 24 hours out, you know you’re gonna be hurting bigtime at 48 hours!
But why? Why is that new movements create such discomfort in the body? (As a chemist, I tend to always ask “why”. It’s helpful for science related things sure, but not always for other stuff like people and relationships, lol… but that’s a discussion for another time…)
Back in college, I remember a common explanation for ridiculously sore muscles, that I felt like I always had during preseason, was the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. Another explanation for sore muscles was – “micro-tears” occur in the muscles leading to painful inflammation.
But you know what? The actual causes of DOMS at the cellular level are relatively unknown.
Let’s pause here and talk a bit more about DOMS for a minute. DOMS is short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is a soreness that creeps into muscles usually 24-48 hours after muscles have been worked in ways that are different that what they’re accustomed to and tends to last for several days – sometimes up to a week.
The types of movements that lead to DOMS can be active, passive, and can also be the result of pressure (this is why you might feel sore after a deep tissue massage – hurts so good, right?). But often for us former athletes (and really anyone), it is initiated by movements that involve contraction of muscles while the muscle is actually stretched or lengthened.
Now as much as I hate being so sore that I can hardly walk down stairs, or have to plop into my chair from a high altitude, or stifle shrieks of pain as I gingerly make my way down the stairs, and struggling to stand up from the toilet (sorry for the visual but it’s true, isn’t it?!?!), I have to admit I really like knowing that I challenged my body in a new way. I EARNED this pain, baby!
But after a few days, the soreness is annoying and I’m tired of hurting. Too many days of pain and it’ll be more than just my muscles that are suffering. The intensity and frequency of my workouts might suffer, too. And less intense workouts are the last thing that I want when keeping my workouts under 30 minutes!
To get around this, recovering faster and reducing soreness are key. That way, I’m able to go “all out” in my workouts as soon as possible.
What are the solutions for sore muscles? Back as a student athlete, they made us sit in an ice bath for 20 minutes after each preseason training session, but I can’t quite do the whole ice bath thing anymore for 2 reasons. 1- I don’t have the time to sit in an ice bath after I workout and 2- I don’t have a giant tub and unlimited ice to make one with!!
So what’s a former athlete to do??
6 WAYS TO RELIEVE SORE MUSCLES
1. Get moving even if you’re super sore and the last thing your muscles want to do is MOVE.
Resist the urge to not do anything because you’re crazy sore. Go out for a 30 min walk or a light intensity jog or spin on the bike. Getting the blood flowing will help circulate the nutrients your body needs to recover and flush out any toxins that are chilling in the muscle fibers.
2. Drink plenty of water.
In case you’re not already drinking tons of water, you should definitely do it when you’re really sore. Technically, your muscles are injured after a workout, and your body needs more fluids when sick or injured. Adequate water intake means your body is well-hydrated and your circulatory system is effectively running on all cylinders moving blood throughout the body. It’s going to be able to get rid of any metabolic byproducts that might have resulted from an intense session at the gym. This is the main reason your massage therapist tells you to drink plenty of water after a deep tissues massage. Gotta flush out the garbage!
3. Stretch after your workout.
It doesn’t hurt to take about 10-15 minutes while your muscles are still warm to do a bit of stretching. While lifting, your muscles are doing all sorts of contracting. Why not do a little lengthening, too? You know, yin and yang?? Contract and stretch? Get it? J
4. Supplement with L-glutamine and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Supplementing with amino acids can be a huge help in aiding muscle recovery and decreasing soreness. In fact, I wish I’d known about these supplements back in college! They would’ve been a lifesaver! If you’re already drinking a protein shake post-workout, you may already be taking in enough L-glutamine and BCAAs in the protein powder itself. If not, consider adding them to your post- or even pre-workout routine.
I prefer BCAAs pre-workout for the little jump of energy they give me. The L-glutamine? I like to take it post-workout because it’s especially helpful with muscle recovery. You can typically buy these online or at any vitamin or health shop. I usually just get the unflavored kind of both then stir into water with a couple squeezes of fresh lime or lemon juice and chug. Not the most pleasant flavor but they get the job done! And don’t forget that the key to supplements is CONSISTENCY. I don’t notice an effect from the L-glutamine if I take it one day, but if I take it 3 days in a row, then I totally notice.
5. Foam rolling.
You’re gonna hate me for this one but I promise it’s effective once you get past the pain. What you’ll want to do is grab a foam roller – pick one up on Amazon or TJ Maxx for a high quality roller at a good price. Put the roller on the floor and the sore muscle in contact with the roller. Then you’ll use your body weight to push down on the muscle (this is why it’s soooo painful – cause sore muscles don’t like pressure!) and roll the muscle BETWEEN the joints over the roller. Do not roll OVER any joints.
Repeat a down/back process usually about 10-15 times per sore muscle, and you can repeat this several times a day. It’s not comfortable at first but I find it most helpful before and after a workout. Essentially it’s a deep tissues massage, so that’s why it’s probably not comfortable…. If you’ve never done this before, there are tons of great resources on the web. Just google that!
6. Epsom salt bath
I absolutely LOVE a good soak in a steaming hot bath. One of the few “must-haves” when I searched for my NYC apartment was a full size tub that I could sink into at the end of a long day. And these hot soaks come in particularly handy when I’ve got sore muscles. The hot water helps circulate blood to muscles that are trying to recover (therefore bringing nutrients and getting rid of any garbage), and the Epsom salt is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that also aids muscle recovery. So next time you’re crazy sore, turn on some steaming hot water (don’t burn yourself though!) and throw in a half cup of Epsom salt while the water’s still running. Sink in and relax for the next 30 minutes… you’ll be so glad you did!
Hopefully, you all love the workouts currently on your calendar. But if they’re leaving you with DOMS of any kind, then consider trying at least one of the techniques above and let me know how it works for you by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Facebook or Twitter.
And by the way, it’s perfectly fine to use ALL of those techniques at once… Ok, well I don’t recommend trying to foam roll in the tub… I see that ending in disaster! But anyway, you get what I mean! Combining all of my suggestions can be even more beneficial than any one on its own. But the important thing is to do what works for you!