Following up my last post about my journey creating variety in strength training, I wanted to touch on soreness from lifting weights, why it happens, and what to do about it.
So, you do a heavy lifting session with more weight or reps than you are used to or, you start a new program and it leaves you aching for a few days. For the most part, soreness after lifting is good because it means that you have broken the muscle down to the point where it will build up stronger. The effort required to produce muscle fatigue can easily trigger the onset of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), especially if you are new to weightlifting or make adjustments in the intensity or frequency of your established weightlifting routine. Although researchers don’t know exactly what causes DOMS, current theories emphasize the combined effects of microscopic tearing in your muscle tissue and inflammation inside your muscle tissue fibers.
Go ahead, lift heavy and allow yourself to be sore. At the same time, it is essential to take measures to rest and recover as well. Here are some ways that you can invest time into your recovery from a workout that has left you wincing with each step.
- Sleep: I cannot emphasize sleep enough because it is when we are asleep that our body works the hardest to restore torn muscles and replenish the body with all that it needs to recover. Most people need more sleep than they realize. Aim for 7-10 hours of sleep a night especially during phases of higher intensity training.
- Stretch: light stretching can aleviate pain that is caused by soreness in the muscles and joints. Also in this category is foam rolling. While it may hurt more than light stretching, it is a great way to bring blood flow back to the muscles and to get them moving in a passive way.
- Nutrition: we know that eating protein will assist our muscles in growth but, what about assisting them in feeling less sore? Foods with a high amount of antioxidants contain anti-inflammatory properties that will help flush the muscles of the inflammation that has built up in them. When thinking antioxidants, thing color. The more colorful a food, the more likely that it is high in antioxidants. Try half a cup of blueberries in Greek yogurt. This satisfies your need for protein and gives you a huge boost of antioxidants at the same time.
- Ice: taking an ice bath or giving a specific area an ice massage is a great way to relieve the ache that comes with lifting. I like to add Epsom salt into my ice baths for an extra boost of magnesium (not supported by research).
It is okay to be sore for a few days to a week. As you continue to stick with your lifting regime the soreness will become less and less. And, it you actively take measures to decrease your soreness, you will recover faster, reaping the benefits of the lift sooner. Lift hard and rest well, athletes!