Hard Work is the key to success in every physical endeavor from making a youth travel hockey team to completing an Iron Man Triathlon. Feeling sore for a day or two after a hard training session or competition is not only normal, but a sure sign that the individual is working hard enough to actually improve at the given task. However, keep in mind that there is a difference between “pain” and “soreness” and while soreness can be overcome with a variety of recovery techniques, “pain” should be treated by the appropriate medical professional as soon as possible.
Learning the difference between “pain” and “soreness” is an integral part of the training experience and the sooner an individual can differentiate between the two, the sooner they will be on their way to improved performance and attaining their goals.
While normal soreness can be addressed with a variety of protocols the goal is always the same: optimize the body’s natural healing properties as quickly as possible in order to make the individual feel better and prepare them to give maximal effort at the then next training session.
Efficient recovery from any type of training stimulus (a long run, heavy weight training, etc.) starts from the inside. The first 45-60 minutes following strenuous exercise are a crucial time to ingest high quality proteins and complex carbohydrates lost during the workout. This time is called the “Glycemic Window” and the body is primed to absorb whatever nutrients are eaten because it is so depleted. It is important to look for quality proteins and carbohydrates and avoid foods high in fat and sugars during this period. If a full meal is not available there are numerous recovery bars/shakes commercially available that will serve this purpose until the individual can sit down for a quality meal.
Also, staying hydrated is a key component in the body functioning properly and removing waste products from the overworked muscles groups. Drinking beyond thirst (aka even when you are not thirsty) and shooting for 8 glasses of water a day is a good start to preventing slowed recovery due to dehydration.
When the body is at rest is the peak time for it to repair itself. Aiming for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep per night (easier said than done) is a good model for ensuring the body has enough time to recover between workouts.
Applying ice to particularly sore body parts or submerging the entire body in a cold whirlpool are great ways to decrease inflammation and expedite the healing process. Keep in mind that this should be supervised by a medical professional and done for short periods of time. Also, many people enjoy trips to the hot tub after strenuous workouts. While this may feel pleasant at the time, it is actually counterproductive as heating the body actually impedes the recovery process.
An Oldie But Goodie
The cliché is “the best recovery for a heavy workout is a light workout” and to a large extent it’s true. Following a hard training session with a lighter one that will get the blood pumping, stretch the major muscle groups and generally elevate the level of physiologic functioning is a great way to flush out soreness and prepare the body for the next major training session. These types of workouts can include activities like light jogging, swimming or non-impact cardio machines.
Massage therapy is a great way to remove waste products from sore muscles and restore the body to its’ previous form. While regular massages are expensive and not necessary for most recreational athletes, the occasional massage after a particularly hard training period or a few times a year is a great way to keep muscles fresh and feeling good.
Hard work is the key to success, but implementing proper recovery techniques to allow the body to keep working hard is also an important component of reaching athletic goals and maintaining optimal health and wellness.
During the day, Angelo is a full-time Strength & Conditioning Coach, at night he’s a stand-up comic that performs throughout New Jersey and on the weekends he runs as many races as possible. Angelo ran his first race in 2010 and has since run the New Jersey Marathon, 3 Half Marathon and dozens of 5K’s. At the 2014 George Sheehan Classic (Red Bank) he ran his first sub-twenty minute 5K (19:50) and he’s been chasing that feeling ever since.