New training, different workouts, the odd Tough Mudder event and longer runs are a perfect recipe for sore muscles. This is where the recovery portion of training can help.
When we workout we add stress onto our bodies. This stress causes minor damage that invokes the body’s healing response that allows us to heal, adapt and get stronger. Sometimes as the muscles heal a knot or trigger point can form in the muscle. The trigger point can cause discomfort, the feeling of tightness and even lack of strength and mobility. As a long distance runner, Chris frequently has sore muscles and has learnt some recovery techniques that help and can easily be done from home or the gym.
Foam rolling is a staple of recovery for gyms, CrossFit boxes and runners everywhere. Foam rolling is a type of self-massage also called myofascial release. It is a great way to break up trigger points and loosen up sore muscles. Most of the time when we think of foam rolling we think of a runner rolling out their legs after a hard run. Foam rollers can also be useful on your back, chest, shoulders and arms after that hard work out. There are tons of great videos and websites to guide you to correct technique.
Some discomfort is ok but stop if you feel any pain. Pain could be a sign you are causing more damage.
ROLLING WITH A LACROSSE BALL
Like a foam roller, a lacrosse ball is another great tool when it comes to self-massage and releasing those trigger points. It has the advantage of size compared to a foam roller and can easily target smaller spots. Many have seen using a ball to roll the arch of the foot after long runs. One other technique is to roll the ball over a sore muscle with your hand. It’s a great way to hit the inner thighs and quads after that long run or leg day.
Like foam rolling, it is ok to feel some discomfort but back off for any pain.
We all know that stretching can help relieve tight muscles and promote flexibility. Both static and dynamic stretching can be a great benefit to recovery. Dynamic stretches aren’t just for warming up. They can be a good way to stay loose throughout the day. Static stretches should be held for 30 seconds at a time and are best done after exercising when your muscles are already warmed up. Try spending 15 minutes on the floor stretching while watching TV instead of sitting on the couch.
EPSOM SALT SOAK
A soak is a fantastic way to help with sore muscles after a hard training day or long run. The magnesium in the Epsom salts is great at soothing sore muscles. The hot water can promote blood flow to help with muscle repair and recovery. You want to have the water as warm as you can comfortably stand and enjoy a nice long relaxing soak. From our pals at Westlab, their Epsom Salts are a TMHQ go to.
An easy recovery hack is to fill a cooler with hot water and Epsom salt and soak your feet and lower legs while multitasking.
Taking a rest day off training can be a hard idea to stomach. Instead of taking a full day off, an active recovery day is a worthwhile option. Yoga is a wonderful alternative to get moving and loosen up. There are loads of apps and YouTube videos available to explore from home.
If you’re new to yoga don’t worry if you are lacking the flexibility to match some of the poses. That will come with time. Starting is step one. When is the last time you did something for the first time?
Recovery days or time can be a new concept for many who are so used to hitting the gym every day. A great way to get started is slowly working in stretching and rolling into your day. 5-10 minutes here and there through the day can add up to loosen up that tight muscle, to help you crush that next workout or to get through that next Tough Mudder obstacle course.
Chris ‘Miko’ Mikolajewski is an ultra-runner, OCR athlete and fitness enthusiast with an engineering hobby (not a fitness professional). A three time World’s Toughest Mudder veteran with an 80-mile finish in Atlanta in 2019 and qualified/competed in the Age Group division at Spartan World Championship in 2018. Always looking for a challenge. The more grueling the more fun. Follow him on Instagram @ultramiko