Part 2: Take Out The Toxins
As you remember from Part 1 of this series, simple dietary changes combined with pre and post-workout movements that promote blood flow are game changers when it comes to reducing post-workout aches and pains (revisit Part 1 here). However, to eliminate prolonged muscle soreness, you still need to get your blood flowing with the nutrients that repair and rejuvenate your body after you exercise. Here are a few ways to revitalize your bloodstream:
1. Chill Out With Cold Compression
You may be brave enough (aka crazy enough) to immerse yourself in an ice bath. Or, you may simply keep an ice pack handy in your freezer. Either way, once youâ€™ve stretched and cooled down, applying any type of cold compression after your workout helps remove the acid from your muscles that induce post-exercise aches and tenderness. It achieves this relief through two bodily functions; Vasoconstriction and Vasodilation.
Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of your blood vessels. On the flip side, Vasodilation is the widening of your blood vessels. When your body encounters cold temperatures, such as cold compression, your blood vessels experience Vasoconstriction.
To effectively use cold compression, hold it on the area of your fatigued muscles for 2 minutes. In the case of an ice bath, just grit your teeth and lower yourself in. After your 2 minutes are up, remove the compression (or yourself from the ice bath) and allow your body to warm again. Alternate between cooling and warming the muscles in 2-minute intervals.
This process allows Vasoconstriction and Vasodilation to work together to pump the blood through your blood vessels manually. Clever right? This process eliminates toxins and brings fresh blood into your muscles. The new blood contains the nutrients your body needs to repair your frayed muscles fibers more efficiently.
2. Sink Into A Hot Bath
Just like momâ€™s chicken soup, a steamy bath is a medicine for the soul (and a lot more pleasant than an ice bath). Enjoy your soothing bath several hours after your sweat session and cold compression to experience its full benefits.
A dip in a hot tub promotes blood flow that exchanges toxins for both oxygen and nutrients in your muscles. The heat relaxes your muscles fibers, reducing tension. Enjoying a bath also provides positive psychological effects. The induced state of deep mental relaxation aids the entire body in physical repair.
To enhance your recovery, simply add Epsom salt to your bath. Epsom salt contains high levels of magnesium that can work wonders on sore muscles. As this mineral is absorbed through the skin, it reduces lactic acid build up and relaxes skeletal muscle. It also assists in the revival of vitamins that regulate nerve and muscle function.
3. Make time for A Foam Roller
It is not only your muscles that experience soreness as a result of physical activity. The fascia in your body is also affected. Fascia are bands or sheets of connective tissue that acts as a web of support for the muscles and bones in your body. Since this web of tissue is connected, tension in the fascia can also cause soreness, restricted movement, and pain.
Using a foam roller works to manually remove aches and pains in both fascia and muscular structures. It encourages the flow of blood into the manipulated muscles and then releases the areas of tense muscle fibers. It also releases tension found in the fascia, which in turn promotes greater ease of movement in the bodyâ€™s muscular system.
Although the name suggests it, you need not roll your body over the foam. More effective techniques include applying prolonged pressure at points along the fatigued muscle. After 30 seconds or more you may feel a slight burning sensation. If itâ€™s not painful, donâ€™t worry. This signifies the chemical change in the muscles as toxins are expelled.
4. Get Your Hands On A Tennis Ball
If your post-exercise aches and pains feel isolated and intense, you may need to focus a little deeper on your denser connective tissues. Ligaments, tendons and dense fascia ensure healthy movement of your joints. These tissues consist of tight bands of fibers that can cause a whole host of problems when theyâ€™re damaged.
Connective tissues can experience tears from overexertion. When this occurs, they shorten, tighten and form scar tissue. Scar tissue can inhibit movement throughout the body and therefore affect your muscles. Symptoms include stiffness, loss of strength and restricted range of movement. Overcompensation can occur, where muscles act to balance out the weak areas in the body. As a result, they become damaged through overexerting themselves.
The good news? If you have a tennis ball, you can avoid all this! This tiny little sphere can give you a huge release in those tight spots within the connective tissue around your joints. Just like a foam roller, use the ball to apply pressure to the tender tissue; it will create an intense feeling of release. If your body requires a deeper, more direct pressure to relieve tension, a lacrosse ball is an excellent alternative. Fun fact, this method and has been attributed to easing tension all throughout the body, including headaches.
5. Book A Massage
The music, the ambiance, the peacefulness, who doesnâ€™t love a good massage! Massage is an added benefit that can help reduce your post-exercise soreness. Massaging fatigued muscles assists in reducing the swelling associated with an intense physical activity. Less inflammation ensures the body can experience greater freedom of movement; this, in turn, promotes efficient blood flow and allows the detoxification and repair process in the muscles to proceed unhindered.
Relaxation is a major aspect of the bodyâ€™s recovery and rejuvenation. The calming and soothing nature of a massage helps to lower stress hormones in the body. Reducing hormones such as serotonin and adrenaline encourages the release of muscular tension. Coupled with that amazing post workout high, a relaxing massage can leave you feeling on top of the world.
The days of week-long muscle soreness are over. What are you waiting for? Take control of your recovery! Eat well and look after your body so that you can come back faster, fitter and stronger every day.